|Prof. Darryl Maybery & Assoc. Prof. Andrea Reupert.|
Their book, Parental Psychiatric Disorder: Distressed Parents and their Families, was commended for its “innovative approach to thinking about and working with families where a parent has a mental illness”.
“With the soaring impact of adult mental and emotional ill health on clinical services and on society generally this outstanding book is timely in addressing a neglected area in a comprehensive way,” said BMA President Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green Kt. in his commendation.
The recognition has been welcomed by Professor Maybery, who – together with fellow researchers Associate Professor Reupert and Dr Melinda Goodyear – plan to expand their four-year research project known as Let’s Talk About Children, across Gippsland from early next year.
The project, funded through the Victorian government Mental Illness Research Fund, is trialling specific interventions to engage with families and children within specialist mental health and family services. It aims to implement a recovery model for parents.
The project evolved after Professor Maybery, a practising psychologist for 15 years, completed his PhD and decided to focus on the impact of a parent’s mental health on their children. “I had worked in prisons and with drug and alcohol support services for many years so I understood the significance of parental mental illness in the lives of children,” he said.
The project will enter its third and final phase from next year and Professor Maybery said data collected from 28 agencies across Victoria so far indicated that the new approach “really improves relationships between clinicians and parents”.
“By talking about ‘real issues’ such as parenting and children and not just confined to the parent’s illness, connections are enriched and conversations can become positive and empowering.
“The project also aims to create positive change in workplaces to improve clinicians’ skills and, in turn, support the longer-term recovery of people with severe mental illness by addressing their parenting role as a core part of the treatment,” he said.
Let’s Talk About Children has benefited from international research collaborations, the input of Monash PhD students and the support of partner agencies. In Gippsland, it has secured the support of Latrobe Regional Hospital’s Adult Mental Health Service, which Professor Maybery said would be critical to implementing a randomised control study with hundreds of parents in Gippsland in the first half of next year. Other key local agencies will also come on board.
The partnership approach will ensure Let’s Talk About Children can be embedded in a variety of settings, with clinicians supported to trial its implementation.
“We know that almost one quarter of all children will, at some stage, have a parent with a mental health problem and that a proportion of these children are at risk of developing similar problems of their own,” Professor Maybery said. “So the critical priority, and the goal that drives us all, is the wellbeing of these kids and we look forward to expanding this project locally.”