What does it mean to have a parent with a mental illness?

Life can sometimes be difficult for young people because of different family circumstances. There is no perfect family, but having a parent with a mental illness can bring added pressures. Because mental illness is difficult to talk about, often nobody realises how much you are doing for your parent and, if you don’t have anyone you can trust to talk to, it can feel overwhelming.

Mental illness is different to ‘normal’ unhappiness and the difference lies in what happens when thoughts and feelings become so strong that you can’t let them go and can only think in one particular way. This feeling of having lost perspective, with no other voice in your head to give you a more measured and less overwhelming picture of your situation, is what we call mental illness. And it can have a big impact on daily life. Read more about where mental illness comes from.

Mental illness comes from a number of different sources, some genetic, some due to your circumstances. It is the accumulation of these different factors that can be too much for the mind to bear. Remember, your parent’s illness is not your fault and nothing you did caused your parent to be ill.

Finding out more about your parent’s mental illness

It is understandable that a young person who has a parent with a mental illness will look for explanations and information online. However, it is important to access reliable sources. We offer useful links to help you get what you need. It’s also worth remembering that information and advice online can often be inaccurate or very general and doesn’t cover the specific details of your situation.

We recommend that you ask for advice from your GP and other health professionals who are dealing with your parent, as they are in a better position to give you information which is specific to your parent. You might want to write questions down beforehand if you are a bit nervous about discussing your parent’s illness, but it is important that you are listened to and taken seriously. You may need to be persistent and determined to receive the information you need.

You can also find out more about specific illnesses on the HeadMeds website, which includes information on medications and conditions, as well as general advice.

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