Publication Date



Background: Family-friendly spaces for children and families to visit inpatient mental health units are recommended in international mental health guidelines as one way to provide service delivery that is responsive to the needs of parent-consumers and families. There is a lack of evidence on the implementation of family-friendly spaces or Family Rooms. This study aimed to explore the development, role, and function of Family Rooms in four mental health inpatient units in a local health district in NSW Australia. Methods: An exploratory descriptive design using multiple data sources was employed. Methods included Family Room usage and parental status data over a 12 week period, an open-ended questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews with 20 nurses. Results: Available parental status data indicated that between 8–14 % of inpatients were parents of dependent children under 18. Family Room usage was multipurpose and used specifically for children & families 29 % of the time. As spaces in the units, Family Rooms were perceived as acknowledging of the importance of family, and providing comfortable, secure spaces for parent-consumers and their children and family to maintain connections. Units did not have local policies or guidelines on the development, maintenance, and/or use of the rooms. Conclusions: Despite long-standing recognition of the need to identify consumers’ parental status, there remains a lack of systematic processes for identifying parents in mental health inpatient services nationally. Family Rooms as spaces within inpatient units acknowledge the importance of families and are a step towards provision of family-focused mental health care. Recommendations for establishing and maintaining Family Rooms are outlined.

Document Type

Open Access Journal Article

Access Rights

Open Access


© 2015 Isobel et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http:// applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.