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“Supporting Parents, Healthy Children” Guidelines

Ministry of Health launches “Supporting Parents, Healthy Children” Guidelines at Southern DHB

29 September 2015

The Ministry of Health today launched a guideline for supporting children of parents with a mental illness at the Southern DHB.

Dr John Crawshaw, Director and Chief Advisor of Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, says children who have a parent with mental health or addiction issues are at increased risk of a number of poor outcomes, including developing mental health or addiction issues themselves.

“There are steps that mental health services can put in place to help reduce these risks. International experience shows there are a number of actions that mental health services can take which can improve both short and long term outcomes.”

No accurate data on the number of children in New Zealand who have a parent with mental health or addiction issues is currently available but overseas data suggests the issue may be widespread.

Some progress has been made in recent years, but the guideline is a first step towards reversing and addressing the lack of visibility and support provided for children of parents with mental health or addiction issues.

All mental health and addiction services have a role in recognising, supporting and protecting children of parents with mental health or addiction issues and their family and whânau, says Carole Heatly, Chief Executive Officer, Southern DHB.

“The guidelines set out recommendations for services on how to work proactively to intervene early, support strengths and address vulnerabilities to provide optimal support. We are proud and feel privileged that Dr Crawshaw and the Ministry of Health have chosen to launch the National Guidelines here at Southern DHB,” said Heatly. “All parents want the best for their children and these guidelines provide all mental health and addiction services, adult and child services alike, with the mandate to work in a family focused way to help parents achieve this.”

"Launching the guideline in Dunedin acknowledges the significant work done by the Southern Mental Health Service into putting into practice many of the supports and initiatives outlined in the guideline", Dr Crawshaw says.

The significant work done by Southern DHB serves as a role model for other DHBs,” added Dr Crawshaw.
Supporting parents and caregivers in developing positive relationships with their children is critically important in the development of healthy children. This includes promoting secure attachments between mother and child and avoiding role reversal where the child ‘looks after the parent in a way that can be developmentally harmful for the child.
Improving parenting skills is a strong protective factor against inter-generational transmission of poor outcomes such as poor mental health, addiction, or abuse and neglect issues.

A significant paradigm shift is needed in adult mental health and addiction services to move from the traditional individualistic approach to service design to one characterised by interventions that are designed to include explicit support for service users in their role as parents.

The Supporting Parents, Healthy Children guideline will spearhead the paradigm shift required and give direction and promote and reinforce the message that the wellbeing of children is the responsibility of all mental health services.

The publication of the Supporting Parents, Healthy Children guideline gives effect to the direction set out in Rising to the Challenge: The Mental Health and Addiction Service Development Plan 2012-2017 for the children of parents with mental illness and addiction.

Parents want the best for their children and these guidelines provide all mental health and addiction services adult and child services alike, with the mandate to work in a family, whānau focused way to help parents achieve this.

The guideline is available from the Ministry of Health website here: http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/supporting-parents-healthy-children.


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