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Whole Family Approaches

Parents with mental health problems and their children are a group whose needs are often poorly addressed by mental health services. Not all parents and children will need the intervention of health and social care services, but those that do can find it hard to get support that is acceptable, accessible and meets the needs of the whole family. Research shows us that around one in four adults will experience mental health problems during their lifetime and at the time of their becoming unwell at least a quarter to a half of these will be parents. We also know that there is a strong link between adult and child mental health and that parental mental health can have an impact on child mental health and development – and vice versa. Given these considerations, and that many of the issues faced by individuals are in reality “family issues”, services can remain compartmentalised, with Adult services treating the parent and Children’s services addressing the needs of the child.

Communication between services and joint provision has traditionally been poor. However, in more recent years there has been a significant shift in children’s and adult social care policy and guidance, which now places greater emphasis on the needs of parents with a mental health problem and the importance of their parenting role. As such “Whole Family” approaches such as BFT are becoming increasingly recommended as a means of addressing issues which impact upon the whole family, and as a way of harnessing the families own resources and resilience.

The Meriden Programme has always advocated the whole family approach, encouraging family workers to consider the needs of all family members and routinely seek the involvement of children , younger people, siblings and significant others. However, sometimes practitioners’ confidence and access to specific resources has been limited which has resulted in the Meriden Programme developing specific training and awareness raising sessions.

Additional Resources:

“Children Can Understand” by Heide Lloyd (2002)

A colouring booklet written and illustrated by Heide Lloyd, which tells the story of Ashley Brown Mouse, whose mummy is ill and has to go to hospital. Copies available through the Meriden Programme.

 Falkov, A (2012) “The Family Model Handbook: An integrated approach to supporting mentally ill parents and their Children” Hove: Pavilion

SCIE Guide 30: Think child, think parent, think family: a guide to parental mental health and child welfare Published: July 2009

 Interfaces Project report

SCIE Parental Mental Health e-Learning