Children in families with a severely mentally ill member
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Background The prevalence of minor children in families with a severely mentally ill member, these children's needs for support and the situation of the spouses were investigated as part of a multi-centre study of the quality of the mental health services in Sweden performed in 1986, 1991 and 1997. Methods The sample was drawn from relatives of compulsorily and voluntarily admitted inpatients to acute psychiatric wards. The instrument used was a semi-structured questionnaire, interviewing relatives about the burden of relatives, their needs for support and participation in care and items concerning the situation of the under-aged children in these families. Results The results over the years investigated showed the same proportion of patients admitted to hospital who were also parents to minor children and a decreasing proportion of patients who had the custody of their children. Female patients were more often a parent and also more often had the custody of the children. The majority of the children had needs for support caused by their parent's illness and these needs were met in half of the cases. The healthy spouses in families with minor children more often had to give up their own occupation and to a higher extent experienced own needs for care and support from psychiatric services compared to spouses without minor children. Conclusions The study supports that there is an urgent need for the psychiatric services to initiate parental issues in programmes for treatment and rehabilitation to ensure that the specific needs of minor children are met.
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