I’m a young person and one of my parents has a mental illness. What can I do?

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Ask Us is for readers who want to take charge of their well-being, support a friend or loved one, find good help, or just learn more about mental health and substance use. Here, the information and resource experts at HeretoHelp will answer the questions that we’re asked most often. We`ll offer tips and information, and we`ll connect you with help in BC, Canada. If you have a question you’d like to ask, email us at askus@heretohelp.bc.ca, tweet @heretohelpbc, or log in to HeretoHelp and post a comment on this page.

It’s not your fault and you can’t control it

Someone else’s illness is not your fault. You also can’t control how someone else feels, their illness, or the things they do or say. What you can do is take care of yourself.

Learning more about your parent’s illness can make it a bit easier to understand what they experience. You can find easy-to-read booklets on mental illnesses at www.heretohelp.bc.ca/factsheet/plainer-language-series, and you can find longer info sheets on many different mental illnesses at www.heretohelp.bc.ca/self-help-resources. You can also find information for young people from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

You can take care of yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself, too! A lot of people have a big mix of feelings when a parent isn’t well. You might feel angry, embarrassed, scared, or many other things. These feelings and experiences can have a big impact on the way your think about yourself and other people. When you’re on an airplane and the flight attendants go through the safety demonstration, they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before your help other people. That’s because it’s hard to help someone else if you aren’t well yourself. Here are some programs specifically for young people:

Kids in Control Support Group Program from the BC Schizophrenia Society helps children and youth ages 8-18 understand mental illnesses, cope with challenges, and take care of their own health and well-being. If Kids in Control is not currently available at your local branch, your branch can order materials so you can work through them on your own.

Super Saturday Club from CMHA Vancouver-Fraser is a free recreation group for children and youth ages 8-17 who have a parent that experiences a mental illness. To learn more, visit www.vancouver-fraser.cmha.bc.ca.

You can reach out for extra help when you need it

If you’re having trouble coping with something going on at home, ask for some help! Here are some places you can go:

  • A teacher or counsellor at school

  • An adult you trust, like a friend’s parent or another family member

  • Kids Help Phone: visit www.kidshelpphone.ca to learn about taking care of yourself and chat with a counsellor, or call 1-800-668-6868 to talk with a counsellor

  • YouthinBC: Visit www.youthinbc.com to chat with a trained volunteer (noon-1.00am Pacific Time)

  • BC Mental Health Support Line: If you ever need to talk to someone or you’d like to see what kind of resources are in your community, call 310-6789 (no area code) at any time

Where can I learn more?
 
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