There are some steps that can be taken to try and help avoid these problems and to make the child or young person's life easier. For example:
- having a reliable, consistent and caring parent or other adult they can talk to;
- being given information and explanation about their parent's illness;
- encouraging and supporting the child in their everyday routine, like attending school, playing and doing things like their peers.
If you are a parent with a mental health problem, it is important that you make sure you have the right help. You can discuss your child’s needs for care and support, especially when you are unwell, with your doctor or the professional treating you. All mental health professionals involved in the care of an ill parent should ask about the needs of the children in the household, and whether any further help is required, even if the parent is not being treated in hospital.
A child may really value the chance to talk about their parent's illness, and their fears, with a professional who is familiar with these things.
It is important for parents and teachers to be aware of the possible stresses on the young person with an ill parent, and to recognise that a child's difficult behaviour may be a cry for help:
- the GP or a social worker can help with support and practical help for the family in caring for the child or young person, and give advice and work with other professionals if there are problems that are harming the child's health or development;
- the child could join a local group (sometimes also called ‘young carers’), specifically for the children and young people who care for their parents or siblings.
Some children may be offered therapy or counselling. A lot of children will not be very happy about this as they assume it means that they are either the ‘problem’ or that they will develop the illness. Young carers groups avoid this problem as the children are respected as helping their parent.
If the child or young person has severe emotional or behavioural problems that interfere with their life and that don't seem to be improving, more specialist help may be needed. Their GP will be able to advise about local services and to refer a young person, if necessary, to the local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS). This service usually includes child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, nurses and social workers