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Family and carer information

Family and carers play an important role in supporting a person with mental illness on the recovery journey. We encourage your involvement in their care planning and treatment. We want to help you understand the journey of someone you care about through our mental health service.

We hope this information will help with concerns and questions you may have. If you need more information you are always welcome to speak to medical team looking after the person you are caring for.

What is mental health?

Mental health means having a sense of wellbeing, enjoying positive relationships with others and being able to cope with the ups and downs of life.

What are mental health problems?

They are disturbances in a person’s mental state or general wellbeing. A mental health problem may be short-term, it may occur due to a stressful event or circumstance and it may affect a person’s ability to relate to others, to work, enjoy leisure time and to cope with everyday living.

Who is a consumer?

Consumers are people who use, or are potential users, of mental health services. We may also use terms like patient, client or resident.

Within a child and youth mental health context, both the parents and the child or young person may be described as consumers.

Who is a carer?

Carers are people who support and nurture consumers. Carers may be relatives, friends or anyone else who provides support in an unpaid capacity.

When you are supporting a consumer who is living with or recovering from a mental illness, you are called a carer.

Why are you important?

Research shows that treatment works best when everybody shares their knowledge of what is happening and knows what is being done to help. We know that it is very important for you to be involved.  To help you, we will help you to know more about the illness and what to expect in the future.

Your role as a carer is an extremely valuable one for both the consumer and us, as a service provider.

What is recovery?

You will hear the term recovery mentioned in mental health care. Recovery means individuals leading a fulfilled life that is not dominated by illness and treatment. The recovery approach does not focus on reducing symptoms or the need for treatment alone, but having opportunities for choice, living a meaningful, satisfying life of purpose, and being a valued member of the community.

When working to facilitate recovery, the following basic elements are considered: the right to choose to live independently, self-education, social inclusiveness and access to employment opportunities.

As recovery progresses, the Care Coordinator/Case Manager and treating team will talk with the person about their diagnosis and their individual goals and treatment options with focus on a holistic, person-centred approach. Taking part in these discussions is an important way to get the best possible care. With consent, members of the team can also talk with you to help you understand their condition and how you can support their recovery.

What impact can caring have?

Caring can become stressful and overwhelming. Carers can experience a wide range of emotions when suddenly faced with this role, and feelings of isolation are not uncommon. There are many myths surrounding mental illness and dealing with stigma can also be a problem. It is therefore important for carers to recognise their own needs and maintain a healthy self-esteem.

What are your rights as a carer?

Carers have a right to:

  • Be shown respect, dignity and privacy
  • Be provided with comprehensive information, education, training and support to facilitate the understanding, advocacy and care of those they care for
  • Place limits on their availability to consumers
  • Have mechanisms of complaint and redress
  • Receive help with their own difficulties that may be generated by the process of caring for a person with a mental illness.

What can a nominated family/carer expect?

As a carer, you become part of the mental health team and share with the other team members your knowledge of what has been happening. You will be able to seek assistance and talk things over with professionals if you need to.

If your loved one agrees, the treatment plan will be discussed with you and you may be asked to become involved in this plan. Also, if your loved one has given permission, you will be included in any revisions of the treatment plan. 

You must agree to keep what you are told about your relative to yourself. This is very important, as to talk about what you know to others breaches the right to privacy and may damage trust. If at any time you do not understand anything, please ask our staff.

Information for children and young people who are carers

In Australia, it is estimated that there are approximately 294,000 children and young people who have a parent with a mental health problem. It is natural for people in families affected by mental health problems to have strong feelings such as anger, confusion, grief or loss from time to time. 

It is important to understand that you are not alone – many families have problems at some time in their life. It can help to meet other children and young people who have gone through some of the things you have gone through. It is important for you to have someone to talk to and to ask for support. Please mention to staff if you would like any help.

What is confidentiality?

A few times it is mentioned that your loved one must agree for us to share information. Confidentiality means keeping a consumer’s personal information private and only sharing information that is absolutely necessary, unless we have permission. This does not mean we can’t talk to you or offer support.

There is one time that we may share information without consent.  This is when we assess that to not share information places someone at risk.

How does confidentiality work?

Permission will be sought from the person being treated for you to be involved. We will be led by their wishes.  They may choose to share some details, to share with only some people, or not to share at all. This is their legal right, and cannot be changed. 

Once permission has been given, you will be encouraged to join the partnership. However, you also have the right not to take part. When everyone agrees to share in this partnership, set times will be made for you to meet staff. Contact by telephone is also welcome. When a meeting takes place, it will be recorded in the medical file.

Rights and responsibilities


What can you expect when your loved one is admitted as an inpatient or to the service?

The time frames indicate the level of assessment and evaluation that occurs.

Within three days, assuming permission, you will be asked to share what you know and will be asked to help with the assessment.

Within five days you will be told about the diagnosis (if one has been made) and discuss ways the illness can be treated.

Within seven days, you will be involved in preparing an Individual Treatment Plan which describes the treatment proposed and follow-up. Unless something else is arranged, there will be weekly discussions for feedback and review.

What can you expect when your loved one is on Outpatient/Community Treatment?

At the first or second appointment or within fourteen days, you will be asked to share information.

Within four weeks you will be given information about the diagnosis and discuss ways of treating the illness. You will also be involved in preparing an Individual Treatment Plan and start to make plans for the future.

Unless something else is arranged, every three months there will be a meeting to discuss progress. In these meetings you may be invited to participate to help guide the recovery progress and planning.

Last updated: 8 November 2018