Family, carers, support people and significant others

Family, carers, support people and significant others: Not all people accessing mental health services require a carer or identify with the kind of relationship that the term 'carer' implies. Similarly, not all consumers have close relationships with family. As such, terms such as support people, support networks and significant others are intended to capture the full range of relationships of importance to people, including family and caring relationships where these are present. This domain is intended to be applied to work with all people who have a role in supporting a person's wellbeing. Other important sources of social and community relationships and support are discussed in the Community participation and citizenship domain.

  • Core principles
    • Family, support people and significant others have a significant and important role in supporting people's recovery.
    • Mental health service providers support people to utilise and enhance their existing support networks.
  • Key capabilities

    Mental health professionals

    • assist people to identify their support needs, to utilise and strengthen existing support networks and to build new support networks
    • value the role of families, support people and significant others in supporting people's recovery
    • work effectively and inclusively with people's support networks using evidence-based practices
    • are able to build a rapport of trust, respect and understanding with people and their significant others
    • support people to engage, re-engage or develop meaningful relationships with family, support people and significant others
    • assist support people to identify their own support needs and encourage them to look after themselves
    • understand the multiple and varied ways that experiences of mental illness may impact on family, caring and social relationships
    • have knowledge of support networks and resources available to support people
    • ensure people are aware of the context and limits of support available to them
    • understand that, at times, people's rights may be in tension with the rights of families and significant others
    • have knowledge of policies and protocols that clarify the information that services are permitted to share with families and significant others
  • Good practice
    • Communicate that it is standard practice to seek a person's consent to involve their family and significant others in their recovery; where a person does not consent to the involvement of family and significant others, their decision will be respected.
    • Recognise that family, support people and significant others have their own needs for information, support and development of skills to continue in their supporting roles.
    • Listen to family members and significant others and provide only general information where people do not consent to sharing personal information.
    • Be clear about what constitutes personal information.
    • Where people do not consent to sharing personal information and involving family members, regularly revisit people's preferences and find out what would make it possible for contact to be acceptable to the person.
    • Seek to understand diverse family and kinship structures and caring relationships and the way individuals direct their relationships with their support people.
    • Demonstrate sensitivity to the range of other responsibilities and pressures that support people may have and support them to look after themselves.
    • Develop expertise in support options for families, carers and significant others.
    • Develop knowledge and understanding of A Victorian charter supporting people in care relationships 2010 and the National Carer Recognition Act 2010.
    • Recognise family and significant others as individuals with special knowledge of the person receiving care.
    • Consider families a key part of the team involved in supporting a person's mental health.
    • Model recovery-oriented behaviours and language in front of families and significant others.
    • Ask to see people's family and significant others with the person present and be transparent about what will be said (and not said) to family, whether the person wishes to be present or not.
    • Recognise that support and caring relationships occur across age, gender and relationships.
    • Support people to re-establish previous relationships where these have not been sustained.
  • Good leadership
    • Consider working with families to be standard practice; if work is not underway with a person's family, there should be a compelling reason.
    • Actively promote outreach work.
    • Review local policies and procedures to incorporate principles of working with families and significant others.
    • Promote flexible working arrangements to accommodate the needs of some family and significant others to be seen outside of standard office hours.
    • Facilitate family and support people getting involved in mental health care.
    • As leaders, participate in family and carer support groups to legitimise peer support work in the organisation.
    • Ensure staff routinely review involvement of families and significant others as partners in supporting people's recovery.

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