Weekly CEO Update: Supporting children and families where a parent has a mental illness

Picture of a young child.

There was a brilliant moment for me this week – and it did not involve discussions about the Federal Budget, although they were very positive too. 

I was invited to speak at a launch of the Framework for Children of Parents with a Mental Illness at one of our member organisations, Central Coast Family Support Services. 

Held on the beautiful Central Coast of NSW, the morning after the Budget, it was an honour to be there with the team and around 50 local service providers at the heart of supporting parents and/or children with mental illness.

In Australia, it is estimated that 21-23% of all children live with at least one parent with a mental illness and some international research tells us that these children have up to 50% chance of developing a mental illness themselves. 

Once upon a time, I was a family therapist working in child and adolescent mental health clinical settings. Back then a child or teenager was sometimes called the ‘identified patient’, despite the ripple effect of their distress within their families. And with clinicians from the adult team in the same organisation we established that there were more than 400 children represented by those adults registered for treatment at the service. 

For too long we have focussed our services on individuals — either the child or the teenager or the parent/s. 

It’s time to focus on services for families.

It’s time to recognise the importance of the connections in families – especially for children and their mental health.

And of course, it’s not a new idea! There have been people working in clinical settings and in psychosocial and social care across the country for years to assist families where the parent has a mental illness, and policies have been developed by governments over time to support this work.

But the event on Wednesday reminded me how important it is that services work together to respond to both the individuals (children and parents) and the family as a whole. We need to learn to think about complexity — because being a parent can be complex.

So let’s think about the individuals: mums or dads, aunties or uncles who live with a mental illness. Are they getting the treatment and support they personally need? Are they being supported as parents?

And let’s think about the children living in families where a parent or their primary carer has a mental illness. What might they need to support their own experience and their own mental well-being, their learning, their peer relationships, their growing bodies, their resilience, their understanding?

I have to stop here and say they the budget announcements gave us hope for expanded services and welcome supports for individuals – both children and parents with a mental illness:

  • New adult mental health hubs in communities across the country.
  • Expanded headspace services.
  • New child hubs so that troubled children can access community-based mental health care.

Even better – a funding commitment to work towards universal mental health screening for parents in the perinatal period so that if they are struggling early with their babies, both can get help early. And continued universal access to preschool to help prepare children for a life of learning and social connection.

Both services for children and services for adults should consider whole families. And as a community of services, the Central Coast has a great opportunity to lead the way here. Their new framework recognises the connection to each other across the service system.

And it is focused on the children’s needs at the centre, but in the context of the family. Perfect timing for National Families Week from 15 to 21 May which coincides with the United Nations International Day of Families.

Have a good weekend.

Leanne Beagley

Join the team at Mental Health Australia: NMHCCF Project Officer

Reporting to the Manager, Consumer & Carer Programs you will be responsible for providing a high standard of project and administration support to deliver a number of projects as part of Mental Health Australia’s contractual responsibilities to the NMHCCF. The position is responsible for assisting with the design, implementation and delivery of projects in accordance with the NMHCCF Workplan. Find out more here.




On Monday I am meeting with the ACT based Primary Health Network, Capital Health Network and in the afternoon I have a meeting of the Mental Health & Life Insurance Roundtable. This is a biannual event that has been held since 2017 with life insurance industry and mental health industry stakeholders. Its purpose is to build the relationship between the two groups and progress common goals with respect to mental health in life insurance. 
On Tuesday I am meeting with Darren Black CEO at OzHelp and also attending the AGM of Pain Australia. Later I am looking forward to hosting a webinar for members with Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler and Shadow Mental Health Assistant Minister Emma McBride about the Federal Budget. 
On Wednesday I have my regular meeting with Dr Ruth Vine, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and then a meeting of the Primary Care Reform Steering Group.
On Thursday we have the Board Finance and Risk Management Committee meeting and later I will host a webinar where Assistant Minister David Coleman discusses the Federal Budget. 
On Friday we have an all-day In-Person Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance Meeting in Melbourne.


Member Benefits, Jobs and Profiles

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POSITIONS VACANT - Work in mental health with one of our members

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Mental Health Australia Member Organisation: R U OK?
Job Title: Ambassador Program Manager 
Type of position: Full Time 
Location: Sydney or Melbourne based
Manage and strengthen the R U OK? Ambassador Program consisting of around 100 trained and highly valued volunteers who generously donate their time and energy to share insights, ideas and stories of hope. To express an interest in this role, or find out more email recruitment@ruok.org.au 

Member Profiles

Gidget Foundation Australia
Gidget Foundation Australia is a not for profit organisation that provides programs nationally to support the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents.

Wellways Australia
Wellways Australia is a provider with 40 years’ experience, we specialise in mental health, disability support and carer services. We dedicate resources to advocacy, to ensure systems are responsible and equitable, and society is inclusive. 


Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia Workshops
We are pleased to announce that we are holding new workshops on the Framework in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. These free and newly expanded workshops will offer participants an opportunity to learn more about the Framework and hear how services have applied the Framework to their workplace. 
Registrations can be made using the following links:

Due to the developing restrictions in Sydney as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken the precautionary decision to postpone the face-to-face Framework Workshop that was planned, to a date still to be confirmed.

We hope to be able to hold this face-to-face event in the coming weeks or months, and we thank you for your interest and support of the Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project and the delivery of the Framework. For further enquiries, please contact multicultural@mhaustralia.org

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and Department of Health updated COVID-19 advice and information

ATAGI have reinforced their recommendations on the use of the COVID-19 vaccine and the Chief Medical Officer has also issued a statement on the ATAGI advice. In response, the Department of Health has updated its vaccine information on the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as information for vaccine providers, disability service providers, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Embrace Australia logo (a rectangle with a light and dark purple cultural stripe pattern with "embrace" and stylised outline of the Australian continent in the lower right corner).


Mental Health News

Budget responses from the sector and stakeholders

Historic $2.3 billion National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (Australian Government)

Beyond Blue welcomes largest ever mental health investment by a Commonwealth Government

National Suicide Prevention Office gets the green light (Suicide Prevention Australia)

A big move forward: Mental Health Victoria welcomes $2.3 billion Federal mental health budget

Budget’s modest response to aged care and mental health inquiries (Consumers Health Forum of Australia)

Budget moves for youth health welcome as a first step (Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Youth Health Forum)

ReachOut welcomes the Federal Government’s significant investment in youth mental health

Increased funding for respite and support services for carers welcomed (Carers Australia)

Federal Budget big on support for nursing (Australian College of Nursing)

Federal Budget commits to expansion and enhancement of headspace services

Not enough to fix broken aged care and mental health systems, fails to address poverty (The Greens)

Government’s $229m investment will transform dementia care for Australians (Dementia Australia)

UnitingCare Australia welcomes historic investment in aged care and key services

Federal Budget lifts essential services but leaves too many people stranded (Australian Council of Social Service)

Embrace Project welcomes funding for multicultural mental health

The Government can lead - but it has to lead for all of us (Anglicare Australia)

Psychiatrists welcome Budget boost to mental health (RANZCP)

COVID-19 telehealth expansion brings relief (RANZCP)

Psychiatrists welcome new MBS inclusion for major depressive disorders (RANZCP)

AASW - once in a century budget investment misdirected

Mental health funding means little with no action on prevention (ACTU)

PACFA: Mental health investment to be applauded

Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds launches Australia’s first industry-led, industry-specific, National Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy

Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds (HHTS) Foundation has launched a free National Mental
Health and Wellbeing Roadmap for the road transport, warehousing, and logistics industries.
This strategy has been created by industry, for industry and provides a unified plan for improving
mental health and wellbeing right across the sector.

Read more



National Volunteer Week 2021 Handbook

With one (1) week until National Volunteer Week 2021, please join Volunteering Australia as we acknowledge that it is time to RECOGNISE. RECONNECT. REIMAGINE. volunteering in Australia. To assist, the Volunteering Australia team has developed a Handbook to help this year’s celebrations and ensure your organisation is recognising, reconnecting and reimagining your volunteers and volunteering program. You are also invited to put your hand up and thank the millions of volunteers around Australia with a special smile. The Wave Your Appreciation campaign is back to recognise the great work volunteers do each and every day. 

2021 Suicide Prevention Summit: Starts today

The 2021 Suicide Prevention Summit (co-hosted by Mental Health Academy & Lifeline Australia) starts this Friday. The event is entirely free to attend, and includes 13 hours of learning – accessible both in real-time & on-demand. You can register here.

One month to go: apply to present at RRMH 2021

Presenter applications for the Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium are open until 4 June. Present your case studies, research and ideas with an audience of like minded professionals at the 2021 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium, taking place from 3-5 November in Canberra. Authors or organisations are invited to submit a presentation of no more than 300 words.




Link to the 2021 Federal Budget Summary

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