Jesuit Social Services
Understanding the Problem

Mental Health

What Else Can You Do?
1. Supporting a child with a mental illness can be very difficult. Accessing resources and information may assist you to understand the illness and to access the supports and treatment required.
2. Mental illness affects functioning, therefore expectations and hopes for the future may have to change.
3. It is useful to try to encourage your young person to connect with other people, including friends, professionals and services.
4. It is important to look after yourself and to take time to relax. Carers need to prioritise some time for themselves.

As carer

As a parent or carer, it can be very difficult to support a child or young person with a mental illness, especially if the young person does not accept or understand that they have a problem, or won't accept assessment or treatment.

Inform Yourself

It is important to learn as much as you can about mental illness, so that you know what you are dealing with and you are aware of the supports and services available to you and your family.

They need to manage their lives

Although this may be hard to accept, a young person's wellbeing is largely not within your control anymore. Even when it comes to managing their mental health, unless urgent intervention is required, they have to come to the realisation that they need to take responsibility for keeping themselves well.

For example, if your young person has asthma, you can't usually stop them from smoking cigarettes, which may jeopardise their health. You can't usually make them take Ventolin as a preventative measure, and you can't ensure that they have bought and carry it with them in case of emergency. You can try to tell them the benefits of these things, and encourage them to do them, but in the end, they are the ones who will make the choices in their lives.

This can be so hard for parents to accept, especially when you have done everything you could when they were growing up, to keep them healthy, seeking medical attention when they needed it, etc. Now it is up to them and it can be very distressing to watch them neglect their health and wellbeing.

Change your expectations

A mental health issue will impact on your child's functioning, that is, how they think and what they are able to do. It may be important for you to consider changing your expectations. Things such as full-time work or study may be too hard and too demanding for them at the moment - perhaps a casual job or short course may be more realistic for them.


You may feel grief if your expectations and hopes for your child's life have had to change. The same is probably true for your child and their hopes for their own life. It may be particularly hard for them (and for you) if they see their school friends finish school, get a job, get into university or experience a relationship, if they feel they are a long way from being able to achieve that.

Support networks

It can be useful to try to encourage the young person to connect with other people, including friends, professionals and services. Others outside the immediate family may develop a relationship with your child whereby the child respects what they have to say and the person may encourage them to pay attention to their health and wellbeing. Sometimes young people respond better to someone other than their parents, when it comes to managing their health.

Good parenting

See the other help sheets on this site to help you with good parenting strategies, such as 'Setting Boundaries'. The skills recommended in these sheets are relevant to parenting a young person with a mental illness.

Look after yourself

This may be a long-term difficulty, so it is important to look after yourself and take time to relax and manage the stress in your own life.


Your child will benefit from you encouraging them to take small steps towards their recovery. You can express hope for them, while at the same time helping them have realistic expectations that recovery may take time and there will be ups and downs along the way.
More about Mental Health
What is a Mental Illness?
Suicidal Behaviour
What Causes Mental Illness?
How Do I Know if it's a
Mental Illness?
Diagnosis and Who Can Help?
Support Services
What Else Can I Do?
Related Help Sheets
Setting Boundaries
When Your Life is on Hold
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