Key messages

  • Mental health professionals can assist families to formulate crisis plans that are essential in managing the day to day impact of mental illness.
  • Mental health professionals can also involve other services that they feel could benefit the family.

As a mental health professional, you can support families to manage the impact of mental illness on day-to-day activities and routines. A family crisis plan helps parents and children plan how they will meet future challenges associated with mental illness.

Role of the mental health professional

You can assist in developing a plan that any family member, including the person with a mental illness, can put into action if the need arises. You can advocate that parents talk to their children and significant others to devise a family crisis plan that lists the name, age and contact details of all family members.

What to include in a family crisis plan

A family crisis plan should specify:

  • who to contact on financial matters, such as when mortgage, rent or bills are to be paid
  • the family’s medical needs, if any
  • who is to provide child care
  • who is to perform domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning and pet care.

It should also list the names and contact details of extended family members, carers, friends, general practitioners and/or community workers who can give the family support, and in what capacity that support is to be given.

Care plans for children and babies

Care plans address the needs of children and/or babies in greater detail and minimise disruption to their routines.

Care plans should specify:

  • names and contact details of immediate family members or legal guardians
  • medical needs of the children, such as allergies and dietary requirements
  • family doctor contact
  • Medicare number
  • who to contact at school, kindergarten or a day-care centre
  • arrangements for getting children to and from school
  • details of out-of-home or extra-curricular activities, such as sport or music lessons and play groups
  • homework timetable
  • bath and bed times
  • baby-sitting contacts or other childcare options

For babies, a care plan should also specify:

  • a parent’s wishes for the temporary care of their baby
  • a baby’s feeding condition, whether breast-fed, bottle-fed or taking in solid foods
  • sleeping routines
  • vaccination dates and details
  • activities or routines that keep the parent connected to their baby.

You should advise families to make crisis and/or care plans easily accessible to all family members, carers and friends involved in the direct care of a person with a mental illness.

Crisis and care plans can also be given to other mental health professionals who have direct involvement with the family.

Other support

In conjunction with crisis and care plans, you can provide a practical guide to a range of government and non-government support services, groups and programs designed to assist families and other carers of people with a mental illness.

These include child protection services, planned respite, mutual support and self-help services, legal aid, advocacy groups, financial assistance programs, information resources, education and training centres, housing and accommodation services, and 24-hour helplines.