The Challenges Presented by Parental Mental Illness and the Potential of a Whole Family Intervention to Improve Outcomes for Families




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title





Peer reviewed



Parental mental illness (PMI) can negatively affect the lives of all family members, and there is an acknowledged need to work attentively with family and social contexts to promote recovery. However, programmes undertaking such work remain rare and knowledge concerning mechanisms through which PMI impacts families and through which recovery might be achieved is underdeveloped. This paper outlines a family intervention programme and presents evidence from focus groups with 16 professionals into their experiences of work with families with PMI. Evidence suggests that interactional effects of PMI, family communication and family relationships are key to understanding its impacts, but professionals are liable to struggle to engage with these due to concerns over stigma and low confidence. Positive impacts on professionals’ practice were achieved primarily through raising awareness of the whole family context in relation to PMI, building of confidence to raise and engage with PMI and the provision of structured tools for use with families. Positive impacts on the lives of family members were then achieved by professionals in relation to symptoms for the ill parent, the burden on children and overall family wellbeing, strongly mediated through improved family communication, understanding and relationships. Implications for policy and practice are considered.


The full text version attached to this record id the authors final peer reviewed version. The publishers version can be found by following the DOI link.


Mental health, Parental mental illness, Social work, Social care, Social policy


Gatsou, L., Yates, S., Goodrich, N. and Pearson, D. (2017) The challenges presented by parental mental illness and the potential of a whole-family intervention to improve outcomes for families. Child & Family Social Work. 22 (1), pp. 388-397


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care