Parental mental health and whānau

Master’s of Nursing Science student, Lobna Falestine – originally from Egypt – is passionate about both the impact of mental health on whānau and the impact of whānau on mental health recovery. Her lived experience with post-partum depression steered her toward her thesis topic: the impact of parental mental health illness on tamariki, partners, whanau and the community.

“Parents with mental illness often don’t want to ask for help, or don’t want to reveal how impacted they really are by their mental illness. They love their children and can often feel real fear of losing their children if they open up about their illness or their challenges with parenting,” Lobna says.

Lobna spent the summer doing a studentship with Pegasus Health. In this time, she had the opportunity to interact with several young people and adults who came from families where mental illness, addiction and more were present.

“I visited Te Puna Wai (Youth Justice Facility) and many of the young people there have parents with mental illness, or drug or alcohol addiction. Parents can be afraid to ask for what they need, they can feel incapable of looking after their children at times, and we are seeing the trans-generational impact with children from these families demonstrating conduct disorders,” says Lobna. Another client she met during her studentship was a man who, in his mid-30s, is just getting his life on track.

“He grew up with a father he now believes had undiagnosed schizophrenia, and spent many years moving around the foster-care system. His family is now scattered and even spending time with his sister triggers his social phobia. He does not understand relationships and does not care if he has people around him or not,” she says.

“This young man’s outcomes could have been much better with a family-focused approach which offers practical and emotional support to parents, partners and children. Family-focused practice supports parents by improving their parenting skills and supporting parents’ recovery by focusing on recognising and building their strengths and capabilities. Of note, it improves parent-child relationship and whole family communication and dynamics,” says Lobna.

Cover image: Lobna Falestine (far left) with fellow Pegasus Health summer students.

Read the full May newsletter here