Supporting families living with maternal bipolar mood disorder

This webinar focuses on a family, including a teenage boy Riley and his mother Mandy who has bipolar mood disorder. Mandy is worried that bipolar mood disorder may run in the family and affect Riley. The panel of practitioners explore how they can work together to support families living with parental mental illness.

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Learning outcomes

By watching this webinar you will be better able to:

  • recognise the key principles of intervention and the roles of the featured disciplines in assessing, treating and supporting families living with parental mental illness, including identifying the risk and protective factors for the family and for each family member.
  • recognise the merits, challenges and opportunities in providing family based collaborative care to enhance resilience in children living with parental mental illness.


Dr Mary Emeleus
Qualifications: MBBS BSc(Med), FRACGP Grad Dip Rural, MMH (Psychotherapy)
Profession: General Practitioner
Mary is a GP and Psychotherapist working at headspace Cairns. She has a mixed role as Senior Clinician, including seeing clients for medical, psychological medicine and psychotherapy appointments, supervising counselling staff and contributing to management. She previously worked at headspace Townsville for four years in a similar role and was GP Advisor to Mental Health Programs for Townsville-Mackay Medicare Local. 

Her professional interests include lifestyle medicine, adolescent mental health, early psychosis intervention, psychological and social approaches to psychosis, Balint groups and Psychodynamic, Jungian and Existential theory & practice. 

Memberships include Australian Society for Psychological Medicine ( (committee member), RACGP NFSI Psychological Medicine Network, Balint Society of Australia and the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis (ISPS) ( 


  • Associate Professor Morton Rawlin
    Qualifications: BMed, MMedSci, FRACGP, FACRRM, DipPractDerm, DipMedHyp, DipFP, DipBusAdmin, MAICD
    Profession: GP
    Based in: Melbourne, VIC

    Currently in:

    • full-time clinical general practice
    • Chair of the Victoria Faculty and the RACGP Faculty of Specific Interests
    • RACGP Board Member
    • Adjunct Associate Professor in General Practice at the University of Sydney
    • Chair of the Rural Placement Committee of Royal Workforce Agency Victoria
    • Member of the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC) Education subcommittee
    • Chair General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration.

  • Dr Nick Kowalenko
    Qualifications: BM, BS, FRANZCP, Cert Adv Child Psychiatry
    Profession: Psychiatrist
    Based in: Sydney, New South Wales
    Nick Kowalenko is the Chair, Faculty of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Royal ANZ College of Psychiatrists. He practices Parent/Infant and early childhood psychiatry at Tresillian Family Care Centres and child & adolescent psychiatry at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney and in rural NSW. He is a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Sydney and Head, Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Studies, NSW Institute of Psychiatry.

    He is the founding Deputy Chair of the Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association (AICAFMHA). Most recently, he co-edited the MJA supplement about Children of Parents with a Mental Illness(April 2012) and champions early intervention & prevention strategies for young people early in life.

  • Ms Vicki Cowling OAM
    Profession: Social Worker and Psychologist
    Based in: Melbourne, VIC
    Vicki Cowling, OAM, is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with  the Australian Association of Social workers, and registered psychologist with AHPRA. For the past 20 years Vicki has contributed to research, projects, and publications concerning children of parents with mental illness and their families, and since 2002 has been on the Reference Group of the COPMI national initiative. 

    Vicki has worked in public child and adolescent mental health services for 15 years, and is now an independent practitioner in child and family mental health in Melbourne, and is a member of the local Mental Health Professional Network.

  • Ms Rose Cuff
    Profession: Occupational Therapist
    Based in: Melbourne, VIC

    Rose is an Occupational Therapist who has worked in child, adolescent and adult mental health services since 1986.  Since 1995, she has focused specifically on the area of supporting families where a parent has a mental illness through direct clinical practice, creating and implementing peer support and group programs, developing resources and conducting training and research. Since 2007 she has been working as the Statewide FaPMI (Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness) coordinator in Victoria, based at the Bouverie Centre. The FaPMI strategy is a Victorian government funded initiative aimed at building capacity in services to promote better outcomes for these families.  

    Since 2002, Rose has been on the Reference Group of the COPMI national initiative. In 2008 she and a small number of dedicated colleagues established the Satellite Foundation which aims to support opportunities for children and families where a parent has a mental illness ( 

Participants who attended the webinar provided the following feedback:

Learning needs

Responses to this question indicate that 65% of survey respondents felt this learning objective was ‘entirely met’ with 29% indicating it was ‘partially met’

Relevance to practice

When asked to rate how relevant the webinar was to the clinicians own practice, 72% stated it was ‘entirely relevant’. 27% marked it as ‘partially relevant’

Practice change

82% of respondents intend to make changes to their clinical work practice as a result of attending the webinar. 56% of respondents said it would give them more confidence in providing care to families living with parental mental illness. 53% said they felt an increased willingness to discuss other professional options with their clients. 74% of respondents said it would improve their referral process due to a better understanding of different disciplines.