Study Reveals Negative Effects on Children of Parents with Mental Illness

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Mental illness is slowly coming out from the stigma society once placed it in. People are now more open to those who suffer from mental illnesses in everyday life. As someone who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I can testify to that. Today’s article will be about a study done in Sydney, Australia. This study is based on how parents with mental illness negatively impact their children – most without even knowing about it.

This study was done by Kim Foster, Associate Professor, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sydney, N.S.W., Australia.

A Chaotic Household

A home is meant to be a safe-haven for those who live in it. Children need a safe space to grow and worry about themselves in an environment where they know they have unconditional love and support from their families. But sadly, a child of parents with mental illness can not feel the same way. According to the study done by Kim Foster, parents with mental illness can cause a chaotic household for the children. Growing up around parents with mental illness causes their children to assume the roles of caregivers, which makes it even harder for them to care for themselves or work on their development. If the parents don’t try to find a way to manage their mental illness, their children will suffer the most.

‘You’d think this roller coaster was never going to stop.’

Growing up in today’s world is already a challenge for most. As kids, we are already under so much pressure from societal norms and circles that we spend most of our lives trying to figure out whether we’re doing the right thing or not. And when you’re a child who has parents with mental illness, the pressure will only multiply. Instead of the aforementioned safe-haven, it becomes a negatively-impacting space for them. And they carry a lot of memories with them for the rest of their lives.

Assuming The “Caregiver Role”

According to the study, children of parents with mental illness naturally assume to role of caregivers for their parents. Regardless of the struggles of youth, they try to be there for their parents and provide whatever support they can at all times. This has a significant impact on their self-development and own mental well-being.

`I think I grew up in a hurry.’

Children turn to their parents for support and guidance, but things can get rough when the roles are turned around. When a child doesn’t think of their parent as their primary caregiver, they assume responsibility for themselves and their parents.

Unable to Form a Connection

Children of parents with mental illness have difficulty connecting with their parents. They are so caught up in always making sure things don’t go wrong that they keep many things to themselves. Our past has a significant impact on our future, which leads to the children growing up with many fears and anxieties of their own.

`I had to be in control of the situation so awful things wouldn’t happen.’

While living with their parents, they watch themselves and their actions to ensure they don’t negatively impact their parents. This leaves a significant mark on their development and makes things even harder for adults.

The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

It’s of vital importance that if you know anyone with mental illness, perhaps a loved one, a family member, your partner, or your friend – be there for them and get them the proper treatment they deserve. Break out of the stigma and help your fellow human beings who are suffering on the inside and are too scared to speak about it. Parents with mental illness should give priority to managing and treating their conditions.

As I mentioned earlier, I suffer from G.A.D., which P.T.S.D caused. I went through a list of doctors before I finally found one who could guide me properly through the process of anxiety management and bettering myself. Had it not been for the love and support of my friends and family, I don’t think I’d have been able to cross this rocky and turbulent journey. If someone around you is suffering, please be there for them.

Comment Your Thoughts

Do you have a mental illness? What challenges did you face because of it, and how do you manage? Talk to us in the comments down below!

Citation: Foster, K. (2010), ‘You’d think this roller coaster was never going to stop’: experiences of adult children of parents with serious mental illness. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 19: 3143-3151. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2702.2010.03293.x

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