Adult children of parents with mental illness: Dehumanization of a parent – ‘She wasn't the wreck in those years that she was to become later’

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Journal Article
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 2018, 27 (3), pp. 1015 - 1021
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© 2017 Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Inc. Children who have lived with parental mental illness experience long-standing reduced health and social outcomes, alongside ongoing personal distress. While there has been some dialogue regarding interventions to support children who are living with parental mental illness, there remains a paucity of knowledge regarding adult children's experiences and potential needs. Given this, the aim of the present study was to establish parenting narratives of adult children who had experienced childhood parental mental illness. This included their experiences of being parented alongside their own subsequent parenting roles. Three men and 10 women, ranging from 30 to 78 years old, met individually with a researcher to tell their stories. Narratives were thematically analysed to establish themes. The findings of the study demonstrated that individuals who have lived with childhood parental mental illness dehumanized their parent with mental illness. The authors argue that all mental health services should be underpinned with a whole of family assessment and care philosophy. There is also a need for all mental health services to consider how policies and procedures might inadvertently dehumanize clients who are parents, which could contribute to familial dehumanization. This could prevent the dehumanization of parents who experience mental illness to preserve parental and child relationships.
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