Academic journal article Advances in Mental Health

Building Capacity for Cross-Sectorial Approaches to the Care of Families Where a Parent Has a Mental Illness

Academic journal article Advances in Mental Health

Building Capacity for Cross-Sectorial Approaches to the Care of Families Where a Parent Has a Mental Illness

Article excerpt

The promotion of family-focused practice for families where a parent has a mental illness (FaPMI) is essential to address the impact of mental illness on the whole family, including dependent children (Hosman, van Doesum, & van Santvoort, 2009; Leinonen, Solantaus, & Punamäki, 2003; Reupert & Maybery, 2007). In the USA, prevalence estimates indicate that over 50% of people with a lifetime diagnosis of mental illness are parents (Nicholson, Biebel, Katz-Leavy, & Williams, 2004), and over 20% of children are currently living in an Australian household with at least one parent with a mental illness (Maybery, Reupert, Patrick, Goodyear, & Crase, 2009). A mental illness is usually a persistent, diagnosable illness that significantly interferes with an individual's cognitive, emotional or social abilities, for example, a severe anxiety or depressive disorder, a psychosis or a personality disorder (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000).

Accommodating a diversity of need as well as a resilience-promoting early intervention focus for all family members requires practice that does not rely on one service sector alone (Goodyear et al., 2015; Power et al., 2015). A cross-sector approach that recognizes the multi-service system structure potentially involved in addressing the needs of a family is essential (Blanch, Nicholson, & Purcell, 1994; Bromfield, Lamont, Parker, & Horsfall, 2010; McDonald & Rosier, 2011). A range of social and economic challenges can compound the impact of mental illness on families and the complexity of issues that may confront them means families affected by parental mental illness often have to engage multiple services to have their needs met. This can include, but is not limited to, mental health, child and family support, drug and alcohol, legal, housing, family violence, education, employment and other community support services. Furthermore, the help families do receive is from fragmented adult and child-serving service systems (Blanch et al., 1994), which are focused primarily on the individual with the presenting issue as the point of focus of service, rather than the family (Korhonen, Vehviläinen-Julkunen, & Pietilä, 2008).

The benefits of cross-sector collaboration are purported to include efficiency in the use of limited resources across services, the integration of other sector 's expertise and skills, a holistic approach to care, and through these an increased likelihood of meeting the needs of family members with inter-related issues (Clark & Smith, 2009; McDonald & Rosier, 2011). Cross-sector training and implementation strategies show some evidence of improving collaborative practice and the level of communication between adult- and child-focused agencies, however practitioners continue to cite significant worker and organizational barriers to cross-sector collaboration (Clark & Smith, 2009). For example, mental health and child protection practitioners report issues with timing and the openness of information shared; in understanding each other 's roles; differences in understanding the course and nature of mental illness; ways to manage the conflicting needs of the parent and child; and a lack of resources to facilitate collaboration (Darlington, Feeney, & Rixon, 2004, 2005).

Limited attention has been paid to the integration of family-focused practice across agencies as part of a joint effort to service the needs of families where a parent has a mental illness (Blanch et al., 1994; Walter & Petr, 2000). This paper reports on a cross-sector workforce development initiative that aimed to: (1) develop emerging champions/practice leaders across child- and adult-focused service sectors to deliver family-focused practice and (2) to build capacity within organizations to work across sectors in their work with FaPMI. Entitled 'The FaPMI cross sector supported implementation program', this initiative was centered on the 'Keeping Families and Children in Mind' (KFC) educational e-resource developed by the Australian national children of parents with a mental illness (COPMI) initiative (www. …

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