Coping with undiagnosed paternal depression in the family

Date produced 15 August 2012

Our panelist John shares his own experience as a father of three young children, struggling with undiagnosed depression. He shares the impact on both his marriage and his parenting. His fellow mental health practitioner panelists explore ways to achieve positive outcomes for parents like John.

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Learning outcomes

By watching this webinar recording you will be better able to:

  • recognise the key principles of intervention and the roles of different disciplines in assessing, treating, managing and supporting families dealing with parental mental illness
  • recognise the merits, challenges and opportunities in providing family based collaborative care and support to enhance resilience in children dealing with parental mental illness.


Dr Michael Murray
Qualifications: MBBCh, Member of Australian College of Psychological Medicine
Profession: GP and Medical Educator
Based in: Townsville, QLD

Dr Michael Murray is a Townsville based GP currently providing medical education with Tropical Medical Training: General Practice Specialists. He also works at Headspace, Townsville.

Michael has worked for over 25 years as a GP in both rural and metropolitan practice and in indigenous health; his clinical expertise is in psychological medicine.

As the Mental Health Professionals Network’s (MHPN) main webinar facilitator, Dr Michael Murray knows as well as anyone the power of integrated communication. And as a career-long regional and rural doctor, he is profoundly aware of the isolation and restrictions to learning that GPs in the far corners of Australia endure.

He examined the prospects for online learning, especially in regional, rural and remote settings in an interview in August 2012:


  • Dr Cate Howell OAM CSM
    Qualifications: BMBS, BAppSc (OT), FRACGP, FACPsychMed, Dip Clinical Hypnosis, MHlthServMgmt, PhD (Medicine), Churchill Fellow
    Profession: Medical practitioner
    Based in: Adelaide, South Australia
    Dr Cate Howell is a medical practitioner and therapist, who directs a large multidisciplinary private practice focussing on mental health, therapy and wellbeing. She has an interest in the management of anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

    Cate is a visiting Lecturer at the University of Adelaide, teaching medical and postgraduate psychotherapy students. She had a year 2000 Churchill Fellowship and completed a PhD on depression.

    She has been involved in research for many years and has had a number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals. Cate has authored two books - ‘Keeping the blues away: the 10 step guide to preventing relapse of depression’, and ‘Release your worries: a guide to letting go of stress and anxiety.’

    Cate is also involved in coaching and training activities.

  • 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.

  • Mr John Clark
    Profession: Consumer / Dad / Anglicare’s Family Mental Health Support Service
    Based in: Turners Beach, Tasmania
    John is married to Nani and together they have three children under 12. After working in the paper industry as a chemical engineer for nine years, John became the lead pastor of a growing church in the North West of Tasmania. After eight years in this role, depression struck but wasn’t diagnosed until it was almost too late. Finally during a time of contemplating suicide John sought help.

    Today at 42, he is in recovery and having re-organised his priorities and values works part-time in Anglicare’s Family Mental Health Support Service and is a stay-at-home dad for the rest of his time. He is passionate in particular about men’s mental health and in his spare time can be found on the water somewhere fly fishing for Tasmania’s famed wild trout.


The following resources support the webinar:

Case study

John — Coping with undiagnosed paternal depression in the family PDF [1.3 MB]


Coping with undiagnosed paternal depression in the family PDF [747 KB]

External resources

Suggested readings

Vicki Cowling and Matthew Garrett (2012). A Child-inclusive Family Intervention in a Community Adult Mental Health Service. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 33, pp 101113 doi:10.1017/aft.2012.13

Participants who attended the webinar provided the following feedback:

Learning needs

99% of respondents indicated their learning needs were ‘entirely met’ or ‘partially met’.

Relevance to practice

When asked to rate how relevant the webinar was to the respondent’s own practice, 80% stated it was ‘entirely relevant’. 19% marked it as ‘partially relevant’

Practice change

Over 69% of respondents intend to make changes to their clinical work practice as a result of attending the webinar.  68% said it would improve support in providing care to families dealing with parental mental health issues. 76% said they felt an increased willingness to discuss other professional options with their clients and 62% of respondents said it would improve their referral process due to a better understanding of different disciplines.

This webinar was produced in August 2012. The Mental Health Professionals’ Network’s webinars are produced for mental health professionals. The information is intended for suitably-experienced mental health professionals and does not replace clinical judgement and decision making. It is intended for use as a guide of a general nature only and may or may not be relevant to particular patients or circumstances. The subject matter is not exhaustive of any mental health conditions presented. Health professionals implementing any recommendations contained in the webinar must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular circumstances when so doing. Any information presented in the webinar recording was deemed relevant at the time of the live event and after this date has not been reviewed. No guarantee can be given that the information is free from error or omission.

Accordingly, MHPN and its employees and agents shall have no liability (including without limitation liability by reason of negligence) to any users of the information contained in any MHPN webinar for any loss or damage (consequential or otherwise) cost or expense incurred or arising by reason of any person using or relying on the information contained in MHPN webinars and whether caused by reason of any error, negligent act, omission or misrepresentation of the information.