Promoting mental health and wellbeing for a young person with a mental illness: Parent occupations

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Parenting is a critical and complex occupational role, requiring different occupations and abilities depending on the developmental stage and specific characteristics of each child. When a young adult child develops a mental illness, assisting and supporting them to overcome or adapt to the mental illness becomes a crucial aspect of this occupational role to which many parents devote a great deal of time and energy. The way parents respond to mental illness can have an important impact on young people. However, to date, research on these parents has focussed almost exclusively on their characteristics and personal coping rather than what they do to try to assist and support young people. The aims of this study were to identify the occupations parents currently engage in to promote mental health and wellbeing for a young person with a mental illness and to explore the perceived helpfulness of these occupations.


Interviews with 26 young people (15–24 years old) and 32 parents were analysed using constant comparative analysis.


Participants reported 78 conceptually distinct mental illness related occupations aimed at promoting: appropriate treatment; positive activities and actions; positive thoughts and feelings; and an ordinary life. Importantly, few participants could evaluate with confidence the helpfulness of individual mental illness related occupations.


This research demonstrates the breadth of the mental illness related occupations parents employ and provides a framework for understanding their complexities. It highlights the need to establish an evidence base for various mental illness related occupations so that parents can have more knowledge and thus confidence in these critical occupations.

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