Growing Up With a Mentally Ill Parent

10 min readMar 4, 2020

Trigger warning: bipolar disorder, cancer, death.

Today’s article is in honour of a reader’s mum who had bipolar disorder and cancer. Sadly, she recently passed away. Sharing Kim’s experience is important to raise awareness about chronic mental health conditions and how it can affect children and families.

This is for those who are in the same boat and for those who are healing.

You are not alone.

What is bipolar disorder?

According to The Black Dog Institute, bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness where people experience extreme mood changes. There is a manic phase (feelings of euphoria, very active) and depressive phase (feeling really low in mood).

Such symptoms can last a week or more and can affect everyday functioning, including work or family responsibilities.

People with bipolar disorder have 15 times greater a risk of suicide than the general population, accounting for up to 25% of all suicides.


Chronic mental health illness is a serious condition. Treatment is required and can be found through psychological support or medication.

The way bipolar disorder is experienced, varies from person to person. One form of treatment may work for someone where another may not have an effect.

Challenges children face living with a parent who have a mental illness

It is estimated in Australia, there are over a million children who live with one or both parents with a mental illness.

There are many challenges that arise in situations like these. Children essentially become a young carer. They take on responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, caring for young siblings and especially for the parent(s).

Children may ‘bottle up’ their feelings as it can be overwhelming. They may also feel it is not a problem when compared to someone who is mentally ill.

This can effect your concentration levels at school, you may withdraw from usual social activities or go out more often.


Your local well-being enthusiast! Thank you for being here and reading the words I write :)

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