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Parental mental illness for children of refugee and immigrant families

The consequences of parental mental illness for children of refugee and immigrant families

A child’s understanding of a parent’s mental illness is obviously age-related and an amalgam of idiosyncratic ideas, egocentric versions of family specific and culturally based belief, and learning from outside the family. Our experience is that children, even of early primary school age, often know something is amiss with their mentally ill parent, but interpret what’shappening according to their own needs and egocentricity, and in view of what the family communicates directly and indirectly. Children of refugee and immigrant families who have a parent with a mental illness face manycomplex challenges. For these children, the demands of settlement and adaptation to the host culture is compounded by the confusion and distress that parental mental illness can create.

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