“My friends and my mum are my main support people.”
The relationship we have with our parents is unique. Our parents don't just pass on their genes to us, they pass down family and cultural values.
Relationships with parents can be complex. Most parents try to do their best for you however this does not always come through. Parents are human beings. Some of us may have parents who are together for a long time, or are divorced, or parents who have passed away. We are all different in the ways we relate to our parents. A positive connection with our parents may help our support mental health and emotional wellbeing — by helping us to feel valued, cared for, supported and guided in life.
However, as you become older and your personality develops, the way you identify with your parent or parents may change.
Whether we are connecting well with our parents or not, there are many factors that can affect our relationship with them. It is a complex relationship that can have a huge impact on our wellbeing, and it comes with its own unique challenges.
Support for parents
When you have a parent with a mental health condition, family relationships may be more stressful, and even feel like there's a role reversal going on.
You may be caring for your parent(s) and managing the house, either on your own or with your sibling(s). You might have to take on additional chores like cooking, shopping and housework, or even administering medication. You may be missing out on some of your own development, whether it's social time with friends, school activities, space for yourself, or emotional support.
Practising self-care helps you and your parent(s). Eating well, sleeping well, exercising, and minimising alcohol and drugs are great ways to keep yourself healthy in body and mind. Self-care also includes relaxing and doing activities you enjoy—like catching up with friends, playing sport, listening to music, or walking your dog.
If your parent is unable to be there for you when they are mentally unwell, reaching out for support may help to handle difficult emotions and situations. Extra support for you and other family members can be found via counselling, support services, carer organisations and help from the community.
If you want to reach out for help for yourself or your parents but aren't sure where to start, we have pages on support for carers and how to support someone.
We also have resources below to help you get started.
“It's easy to burn out. Caring for a family member is not like working from 9-5. It goes on day and night, it’s non-stop. That's why self-care is so important.”
A closer look
Some mental illnesses can run in families
Mental illnesses that can run in families are depression, bipolar disorder, some anxiety disorders (like agoraphobia), and schizophrenia. Having a parent with a mental illness can sometimes increase your risk of the same illness. With the people we are in close contact with such as parents, traits and habits can be shared regardless of genetics. (Source)
Many Australians have parents with mental ill-health
Nearly 1 in 4 young people live in families where at least one parent lives with a mental health condition. That is more than 1 million children in Australia. Children in this situation may face additional challenges at home, yet they can still have positive mental health and wellbeing. (Source)
You are not to blame
There is a positive side to being a young carer
4% of children and 10% of teenagers are young carers, though many do not identify with that title. Through home caring experiences, young carers can become highly equipped with life skills and strong self-esteem, as well as being resourceful, practical, resilient, and independent. (Source)
Overcoming the loss of a parent
When we experience loss of a parent, it can be an emotional experience regardless of whether the parental connection was close or distant, peaceful of conflicted. Grieving isn’t the same for everyone, but we all need support, close friendship, and family togetherness to get through. (Source 1) (Source 2)
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).