eNews August 2013

In this edition

Putting families and children at the centre of recovery

Exploring best practice…

Next week COPMI, in partnership with people who have a lived experience of mental illness, is hosting a pre-conference workshop at the annual TheMHS conference in Melbourne. Titled ‘Putting Families and Children at the Centre of Recovery’, the workshop will explore the ways that services and families with children have successfully taken a family-driven approach in mental health care in Australia. The workshop will also identify practical next steps for the future.

John Clark, one of the four members of COPMI’s National Lived Experience Forum (CNLEF) who have developed the workshop with the COPMI team, knows firsthand about the challenges faced by families where a parent has a mental illness.  The father of three became ill with severe depression and anxiety in 2008 and says this significantly impacted his role as a dad.

“It was a really hard time for our family as I ranged from an irritable, angry, agitated dad, to a just plain absent dad. We know that children are impacted by their parent’s mental illness in a variety of ways, yet not once through my journey did any of my health care professionals ask if I was a father,” he says.

“Through my own research, I learnt how important it was to talk to my kids about my illness and found out some good techniques to help build their resilience – I believe this should be a routine part of mental health care.”

Similarly fellow CNLEF member and mother of two, Jane Grace, says that a more family-centred approach would have been hugely beneficial to her recovery.

“During Christmas 2006 my life turned upside down, my marriage ended and I was diagnosed with mental illness. All of a sudden I went from working full-time, with a house and security to living with my two small children in a cold and draughty flat, with an illness I didn’t understand. I was in a deeply depressed state,” Jane says.

“What followed were several years of hardship and, looking back, although I managed to house, clothe and feed my kids, I wish someone had checked in on them and helped me provide the emotional support that I wasn’t always able to give. This would have helped my recovery too by reducing the sense of failure I had as a parent.”

Today Jane and John’s recoveries are progressing well and both emphasise that it’s not just about them getting well. Recovery of the whole family is critical. 

“A family-centred approach is so important – to give kids a sense of empowerment and create a general, healing effect,” says Jane. “There are so many kids in this situation and that’s why I share my story – to help spread knowledge about resources for families and to put families on the agenda of health care professionals,” says John.

What:     COPMI’s TheMHS pre-conference workshop, ‘Putting Families and Children at the Centre of Recovery’
When:     Tuesday 20th August, 9.30am to 4pm
Where:   The Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, South Wharf, Melbourne


Help COPMI learn more about great collaboration

Many families experiencing mental illness who have young children have told us that they wish services could collaborate better to support them. Service providers have also described the challenges of working together to support these families.

COPMI is now working on a project to find out about what excellent collaboration between services looks like, and what we can do to better support it. The findings of this project will be used to inform the development of tools and resources to help families and workers.

Can you share your experience?

Do you have a lived experience of parental mental illness when your family also had young children? Can you share a good or bad story about service collaboration?

Alternatively, can you give a service provider’s perspective on collaboration between mental health services and services that support children and parenting?

Choose the short survey below that best suits your experience. (You can fill in both surveys if they both apply to you). We estimate each survey will take between 5-15 minutes (depending on how much you have to tell us!)

We are able to offer $15 to the first 50 people with lived experience of parental mental illness and young children who complete the lived experience survey. (There is no reimbursement for the worker survey).

If you would like to share your story personally with our Lived Experience Coordinator, please call Fiona Telford-Sharp on (08) 8367 0888.

Sincere thanks for your feedback!


Resources for Dads

There’s a widespread belief that antenatal and postnatal depression (PND) are experienced only by women. However, research shows that PND affects 3-10% of men too – and many of them are reluctant to seek help.

Awareness that men also experience PND, and understanding of the emotional, social and financial impact on families, colleagues and workplaces still has a long way to go, according to Belinda Horton (CEO of the Post and Antenatal Depression Association – PANDA).

It is just as critical that men are recognised and treated early, to avoid the longer term effects on dads’ mental health and their relationships with family and friends.

Important dads information online

To help support dads who are experiencing mental health problems (or have a partner experiencing mental health problems), the COPMI website features a section for dads that offers videos, fact sheets and information about how to parent well when you (or your partner) are unwell.

Here’s what you’ll find:

Please share this information with anyone you think could benefit, including mums who could share the information with their partners.

The suggestions, information and advice in the dads section was developed under the guidance of dads and their family members who have a lived experience of mental illness and whom COPMI would like to acknowledge and thank.


COPMI ‘train-the-trainer’workshops

South Australia

A two day ‘train-the-trainer’ workshop was facilitated by COPMI with a range of staff and agencies in the Onkaparinga region of South Australia in June. Participants in the ‘‘Keeping Families and Children in Mind’ course were from a wide range of health, mental health, drug and alcohol, family and children service backgrounds. 

The workshop was co-facilitated by the COPMI Workforce Development Officer and a parent with lived experience of mental illness (Cecelia Kluge) who introduced participants to COPMI training materials and supported them to develop local COPMI workshop and training plans that they could implement in local services.

A big thank you to Cecelia Kluge for your valued contribution!

New Zealand

In New Zealand the ‘Supporting Families in Mental Illness’ organisation facilitated a two-day workshop in Christchurch. Previous COPMI Director, Elizabeth Fudge, ran the 2-day workshop in partnership with two people who have experience of living in families affected by a parent’s mental illness or addiction. Together, they helped staff from a range of Supporting Families branches to understand the use of COPMI training and materials, including the development of workshop plans that they could use with staff at their local sites.

A big thank you to Elizabeth Fudge and her local co-facilitators for sharing their expertise in New Zealand.

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