Targeted support needed for families of young people with mental ill-health: report

Targeted support needed for families of young people with mental ill-health: report

23 September 2020

Most families will need some level of support if a family member experiences mental ill-health and it can be beneficial to involve families in treatment, a new Orygen report has found.

The report, Circle of support: supporting families and their involvement in youth mental health highlighted the need for more support for families of young people with mental ill-health.

The report found that families would benefit from a clearer map of pathways through the health system when seeking help; more family peer support workers in mental health services; and consideration of ways they can be involved with the treatment and care of their young people.

David Baker, Principal Policy Adviser at Orygen, said the experience of mental ill-health impacted both young people and their families. “The focus of family support is often centred on parents, but more attention is needed in developing and implementing support services for siblings and partners,” Mr Baker said.

“For many young people experiencing mental ill-health, family members are their primary support and they need to be supported to fulfil this role.”

Mr Baker said there were many ways family members could be included in a young person’s mental health treatment, but the report showed that although families could often provide insights into the experiences of their young people, they were sometimes frustrated by not being engaged in their treatment and care.

“Involving families in care can be supported through family worker roles, through engagement in treatment planning and, where appropriate, family oriented interventions.”

The report has also highlighted the role that family peer support workers can play in supporting family members.

Karen Smith, lead family worker at Orygen, said family peer support workers generally have a lived experience of a similar caring role from which they can draw to support the families of young people receiving mental health care.

“The support family peer workers can provide is varied and can include information and access to support services, support when families feel socially isolated, and they can contribute to the delivery of family inclusive practice,” Ms Smith said.

“Family inclusive practice is an approach to service design and treatment delivery that empowers a young person’s family to take an active role in supporting a young person,” Mr Baker said.

“Recognition of the supportive role families can play in improving a young person’s mental health has made family inclusive practice a focus of mental health strategies, service and practice guidelines, and research.

“This report clearly points to the importance of supporting and involving families in the mental health care of their young people,” Mr Baker said.

“Hopefully, we will continue to see increased family inclusion as a part of the standard service a young person with mental ill-health receives,” he said.