Parental Mental Illness and Coping: An Exploratory Survey

Lisa Baker, Rob Lees


The prevalence of Mental Health Concerns (MHC) among parents whose children are accessing services from a mental health outpatient center was explored, along with what helps and hinders the coping of those parents identified as having diagnosed or suspected MHC. Participants were selected based on interviews with their child’s mental health clinician who identified 71% of the selected families as having at least one parent with diagnosed or suspected MHC. Semi-structured phone interviews with 28 participants in those families were then conducted. Given the diversity and problem with language depicting mental illness, MHC was the rubric adopted for this paper as it was believed to be less of a problematic label. A qualitative research design provided a deeper understanding into the resources that parents utilize to help them cope, the challenges that make it more difficult for them to do well, and the supports they wish they had. There was a high correlation between clinician perception and participant self-report in indicating the presence of MHC. Resources revealed as helpful to parent coping included the assistance of counselling and medical professionals, community and family supports, and medication. Hindrances to parent coping included lack of finances, parenting stress, and difficulties related to MHC. Parents wished there were more services and supports available across professional and community domains. Findings may provide insight for family centered, integrative program ideas and supports that will increase family coping when both parents and children are dealing with MHC. 

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Canadian Journal of Family and Youth / Le Journal Canadien de Famille et de la Jeunesse
2008-2014 | ISSN 1718-9748