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Your Feelings

How do children and young people feel when their parent has a mental illness?

As a child or young person living with, or knowing someone with a mental illness, life can be really tough. You may feel lots of different emotions towards the person with the mental illness. Feelings are not good or bad, right or wrong - they are your reaction to what is happening to you. You are not alone in feeling worried and mixed up if someone in your family has a mental illness.

  • You may wonder what caused the illness.
  • You may ask yourself – did I cause the illness? Can I catch it?
  • You might not understand what the illness is.
  • You may wonder how long it will last.
  • You may wonder how to cope with your fears and anxieties.
  • You may wonder what you can do when things get too much.
  • You may feel angry and wonder why it has to happen in your family.
  • You may get embarrassed, and not want anyone to know that a member of your family has a mental illness.
  • You may feel embarrassed to bring friends home because you do not know what your relative will do.
  • You may feel guilty if you get angry with your relative.
  • You may feel guilty because you are well and your relative is not.
  • You may feel guilty because you wish your relative was no longer part of your life.
  • You may be scared to be around your relative because they have changed so much. You may be afraid that they will hurt themselves or others.
  • You may feel scared if your relative talks about strange things, or talks about wanting to die.
  • You may be confused about what is happening, and may feel it's not OK to talk about what's going on.
  • You may feel responsible for looking after your parent or making sure they are cared for, as well as looking after other things in the family.
  • Young ARAFMI can help you understand what is happening, help you deal with how you feel, and help you meet other people your age in similar situations.



    It is very important that you understand that you are not to blame for someone else's difficulties – whether it's one of your parents, or your sister or brother who is affected by mental illness.

    Everyone in life experiences ups and downs. Sometimes how you think about an event and how you react to it are more important than the event itself. If something happens and you don't like it, you can choose how to deal with it.

    If you look at your misfortunes as learning experiences and challenges that you can survive and overcome, you will grow stronger. Ask yourself "how can I make this work for me instead of against me?" Tell yourself you won't just be a victim of your circumstances – you'll accept them, deal with them….. and rise above them.

    "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved." - Helen Keller


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