Children Caring for Parents with Mental Illness: Perspectives of Young Carers, Parents and Professionals

Children Caring for Parents with Mental Illness: Perspectives of Young Carers, Parents and Professionals

Children Caring for Parents with Mental Illness: Perspectives of Young Carers, Parents and Professionals

Children Caring for Parents with Mental Illness: Perspectives of Young Carers, Parents and Professionals

Synopsis

Little is known about the experiences of children living in families affected by severe and enduring mental illness. This is the first in-depth study of children and young people caring for parents affected in this way. Drawing on primary research data collected from 40 families, the book presents the perspectives of children (young carers), their parents and the key professionals in contact with them. Children caring for parents with mental illness makes an invaluable contribution to the growing evidence base on parental mental illness and outcomes for children. It is the first research-based text to examine the experiences and needs of children caring for parents with severe mental illness provides the perspectives of children, parents and key professionals in contact with these families reviews existing medical, social, child protection and young carers literatures on parental mental illness and consequences for children; provides a chronology and guide to relevant law and policy affecting young carers and parents with severe mental illness makes concrete recommendations and suggestions for improving policy and professional practice contributes to the growing evidence base on parental mental illness and outcomes for children and families.

Excerpt

While there is a growing body of research on young carers, there has been little published to date specifically on children caring for parents with severe and enduring mental illness. the Young Carers Research Group (YCRG) in the Centre for Child and Family Research, Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University (to which the authors belong) has been conducting research on young carers and their families for the last ten years. This book arose from a project which started in January 2000 and which aims to fill the gaps in knowledge and understanding of children caring for parents with severe and enduring mental illness.

We were fortunate to have an excellent working partnership with the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (NSF, since renamed Rethink) who, with us, applied to the National Lottery Charities Board (now the Community Fund) for a grant to conduct research on this topic. We must acknowledge our gratitude to the nsf, and in particular to Martin Kinsella who was instrumental in the original application and who chaired the Advisory Board, and Gary Hogman, who was our day-to-day contact at nsf. We are also indebted to the Community Fund for making funding available from their health and social research grants programme to conduct this study.

The research was ably assisted by an Advisory Board who offered advice and guidance throughout the two-year research period. We are grateful to: Sarah Byford, Harriet Clarke, Jeff Cohen, Chris Dearden, Jenny Fisher, Liz Fletcher, Gary Hogman, Ilan Katz, Martin Kinsella, Richard Olsen, James Wade and Cassie Wragg. We also sought specialist advice from a number of others who we would like to acknowledge: Adrian Falkov, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist; John Russell, pharmacist; Fiona Becker, nspcc child protection training consultancy; David Deacon, Communication and Media Studies, Loughborough University; Simon Cross, Centre for Mass Communication Research, Leicester University; and to the many others who shared with us their ideas through formal and informal discussions. Two anonymous referees made helpful comments about the first draft of the manuscript.

It would not have been possible to undertake this research and to select our sample without the help of the many dedicated young carers and nsf projects across Britain. We thank the project workers for taking the time and trouble to assist us in identifying families where children were caring for parents with severe and enduring mental illness and in helping us to recruit these families. We are indebted to the families themselves for agreeing to be interviewed about their lives and experiences. For many of the parents and children this was their first opportunity to talk openly about what were sometimes very difficult and painful experiences. We are grateful to them for their honesty and for their trust in us to deal sensitively with the information they gave us. These . . .

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