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Support for Whānau/Family
Resources: Parents and Caregivers
Families play an important role in the recovery journey of people experiencing mental illness. Whānau / Family can refer to anyone who supports or cares for a person experiencing mental illness. When someone you love is experiencing mental illness it can feel like an emotional rollercoaster and a challenge for you, your relationships and your family.

Acceptance, love and boundary setting can be pivotal in helping a loved one recover. Denial, disapproval, blame and judgement is likely to worsen the situation. As family / whānau there is a lot you can do to help. It’s important to keep your self-care as a priority in order do to your best for your loved one. 

Help resources for parents, family and friends

Commonground – a website hub providing parents, family, whānau and friends with access to information, tools and support to help a young person who is struggling.

Parent Help – 0800 568 856 for parents/whānau seeking support, advice and practical strategies on all parenting concerns. Anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential.

Family Services Helpline –  0800 211 211 for help finding (and direct transfer to) community based health and social support services in your area.

Skylight – 0800 299 100 for support through trauma, loss and grief; 9am–5pm weekdays.

Yellow Brick Road (formerly Supporting Families) –  For families and whānau supporting a loved one who has a mental illness. Auckland 0800 732 825. Find other regions' contact details here.


"Motu e va’a e taha. ‘Oku ongo katoa ia ki ke fu’u akau”

When one branch breaks the whole tree feels it.

Tongan proverb.

Talking with your children about mental health or addiction issues can help them make sense of changes they see in the family and whānau. Without support, your children will try to make sense of these changes on their own. Talking with them will reduce their confusion.

You need to tell them enough to reduce their concerns about your issues and how you are being supported – and they need to know that they aren’t to blame. You might be worried that talking about your issues with your children will burden them. In fact, many parents say that their children are reassured to learn about why things might be ‘different’ and that their parents are taking steps to manage the issues. F

Plan for Caring for Children: Being a parent is an important role. This plan helps everyone support the children, family and whānau of people who are parents and who also use mental health or addiction services.

If children need care due to a parent’s illness or time in respite/rehab/hospital, it is good to record the wishes of everyone involved ahead of time. The plan is about being prepared and talking through possible processes and issues – the plan may never have to be used.

Parents want the best for their children and these guidelines provide all mental health and addiction services, adult and child services alike, with the mandate to work in a family-focused way to help parents achieve this. These guidelines help to ensure that the wellbeing of children is everyone’s responsibility, not just infant, child and adolescent services. 

Other useful links:

COPMI website

Information for children and young people, Whāraurau

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Position Statement 2016

Whāraurau videos and resources