Support for mental health essential in mediation

Parents’ perceived differences of their children’s mental health could be drastically reducing agreements in mediation, according to a new study at the Adelaide Family Relationship Centre.

Speaking at the Australian Psychological Society’s Counselling College Conference in Melbourne last week, Principal Researcher Jamie Lee said that over one in five mediations at Relationships Australia South Australia involved a fundamental disagreement about a child’s psychological distress levels, creating added difficulties for parents. ‘Mediation gets much harder when parties don’t see eye-to-eye on the issues.’

These differences were strongest if mediating parents were also distressed, Lee said. He stressed that parents need to be supported to look after their own mental health as well as that of their children to ensure a greater chance of agreement.

Identifying parents’ psychological distress and its impact on mediation is the key to providing them with the best possible support during the mediation process. ‘If the distress in families goes beyond everyday stresses and strains then we have the right services, resources and information. No-one expects mediation to be just a quick chat about their kids, but if that distress comes from fear of violence or intimidation, we have services and procedures to respond to that.’

Mediation clients are strongly encouraged to speak to their worker before mediation begins if they have concerns about a child, mental health or mediating safely with a former partner. Our office numbers are listed here.