Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

Family/Whanau Meetings - Questions to ask

Family meetings are opportunities for Family/Whanau to share their understanding and knowledge with the mental health team and to provide and receive support during the care and treatment of the relative.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK has developed a useful list of questions which assist families in learning and understanding more about the assessment, treatment and care of their relative.  You may find these useful.

Questions such as:

About the diagnosis:
  • What illness does my relative have?
  • If a diagnosis has not been made, what are the possibilities?


If a diagnosis has been made:
  • What signs or symptoms suggest this?
  • What is known about the causes of this illness?
  • What is likely to happen in the future? Could it get better or worse?
  • Where can we get information about this illness?


About the assessment:
  • What tests have already been done?
  • Are there any other tests that might be needed?
  • Are there any physical problems that have been discovered?


About care and treatment:
  • What are the aims of the care and treatment?
  • Who will be involved in my relative's care?
  • How often will my relative see a psychiatrist?
  • What is the plan for treatment?
  • How long do you anticipate treatment lasting?
  • Is psychological treatment, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, available?
  • What happens if our relative refuses treatment?

The family and Treatment:
  • Will the family be routinely involved in discussions about our relative's treatment?
  • What can we do to help?
  • Are there any local self-help or carers' support groups?


Getting Help:
  • Who is our key contact in the treatment team?
  • How can we get in touch with the psychiatrist?
  • Who do we contact if we are worried about something?
  • Who do we contact in an emergency?
  • How can we get a second opinion if required?


  • What medication is to be used?
  • What are the benefits of this medication?
  • Why have you chosen this particular drug?
  • What are the possible side effects of this particular drug?
  • For how long will my relative need to take this medication?
  • Are there any other drugs that could be used if this one does not work?
  • Are other drugs required to control side effects?
  • What signs do we look for that might mean the dose needs to be changed or adverse side effects reduced?
  • What will happen if my relative stops taking the medication?
  • Do you have any written information about the medication or medications?


Hospital Treatment:
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of hospital treatment?
  • What arrangements will be made for the care of my relative after leaving hospital?
  • What help can we get to care for children while my relative is an inpatient?


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Taranaki Mental Health Sector