A substantial proportion of Australian infants and children experience mental health difficulties such as attachment difficulties, anxiety, depression and conduct disorder. When children with mental health difficulties receive appropriate and timely support it can prevent the development of more serious disorders in the long-term. However, many Australian children with mental health difficulties do not get the professional support they need .
Parents play a critical role in ensuring children who experience mental health difficulties get adequate support. The fact that many children with mental health difficulties are missing out on the support they need is not due to parents’ lack of concern for their children’s mental health. Rather, some of the most significant barriers to children’s access to and use of child mental health services relate to: parents’ awareness and understanding of child mental health, parents’ knowledge about supports and services and parents’ concerns about the consequences of seeking help.
The purpose of this paper is to inform practitioners in universal health, education and community services settings about why it might be difficult for some parents to talk to them about their children’s mental health, and what practitioners can do to make that process easier.