Advances in Mental Health, Vol 10, No 2 (2011)

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A Consultation Service for AMHS Clients who are Parents and their Families

Mary Ellen Jessop, Nikki deBondt



Children of parents with mental illness (COPMI) are at increased risk of mental health problems. Fortunately, there is emerging evidence of the benefit of family-centred, strength based approaches for these children.  Previous studies have highlighted the barriers to accessing services for these families. This article outlines the development of a consultation service offered by the Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) to assist Adult Mental Health Service (AMHS) clinicians in supporting families of parents with mental illness. Data was obtained regarding the number of AMHS clients who are parents and the impact of the consultation service promotion on referral patterns. During data collection there was a critical event involving the death of a child of a parent with mental illness.  Subsequently, a state wide COPMI policy was developed that is hypothesised to have influenced the referral pattern.  The number of adult clients who are parents was lower than in other Australian studies (3-17% versus 23%).  There was a modest increase in referral numbers to the CYMHS during this time.  AMHS Clinicians reported barriers in talking to client’s who are parents regarding their children’s needs and facilitating appropriate referrals.  The article demonstrates the limitations of having an external service (CYMHS) offering an assessment of the family’s needs and the importance of the AMHS clinicians having adequate skills and knowledge to work with these families. Recommendations include organisational support for AMHS clinicians in working with these families, ensuring adequate professional development and developing strategies to support collaborative work between agencies.


Advances in Mental Health

ISSN 1837-4905
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