Adult Children of Parents with Mental Illness: Losing Oneself. Who am I?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 2016, 37 (9), pp. 668 - 673
Issue Date:
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© 2016, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. There is a limited body of research that focuses on experiences of families of people with mental illness. While the body of knowledge concerning children of parents with mental illness is increasing, there remains limited discourse surrounding the experiences of adults who have lived with childhood parental mental illness. This paper examined one major theme of a study focusing on parenting narratives of adults who had experienced childhood parental mental illness. The narrative study from a metropolitan area of Australia reflects adult children's experiences of being overwhelmed with parental mental illness. They felt unsure of their own emotions and felt they had lost a sense of who they were as individual people. Adult children felt confused about their sense of reality, particularly for those whose parent had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or psychosis. Their experiences of loss were closely associated with changing self identity. Furthermore, many of the narratives demonstrated experiences of grief for adult children. Greater understanding of adult children's perceptions of being parented by a person with mental illness, alongside their experiences of loss, has the potential to help health and social care professionals to facilitate greater resilience for families who are living with parental mental illness.
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