eNews November 2014

In this edition:



New ‘Child Aware practice’ eLearning course

‘Child Aware’ practice is an emerging concept in Australia and involves building an organisational and workplace culture that embraces a range of practices and attitudes that aim to keep the ‘child in mind’. The challenge is to provide the right service at the right time to families with vulnerabilities so that parenting can be supported, child abuse and neglect can be prevented and the effects of trauma and harm can be reduced.

This important approach is now being explored through a new eLearning course, funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services through a partnership with the Australian Centre for Child Protection and the COPMI national initiative. It offers organisations the opportunity to consider how ‘visible’ children are in practice and to reflect on how parenting is supported across service design and practice responses.

What does the course cover?

The eLearning course focuses on a series of case studies that are presented via video, with a workbook and reflective exercises to promote organisational and practice change to support ‘Child Aware’ practice across the service continuum.

The course opens with a story that re-winds through a number of stages in a child’s life (called ‘Hayley’). Her story is somewhat confronting, but has been designed to explore opportunities lost when considering the impact of adult problems on the social, emotional and developmental needs of children (in this case Hayley).

As the individual needs of adults can dominate a service response, attending to the experience of adults as parents and to the needs of children requires deliberate attention and effort throughout all stages of intervention. This course is designed to support these actions through the development of ‘Child Aware’ practice. It includes change strategies for consideration for a diverse range of professionals and organisations, particularly in settings where the service response has had a more adult focus.

The Child Aware practice course is available free to professionals, who can register online and undertake the course immediately. We encourage the sharing of this information with any organisations or individuals who may benefit.

>Find out more or start the course now  


Postnatal Depression Awareness Week

Postnatal Depression Awareness Week runs from November 16 to 22, offering an opportunity to raise community awareness about mental health issues in the ‘perinatal’ period which covers pregnancy (antenatal) to the first year after birth (postnatal).

In Australia, up to 1 in 10 women experience depression during pregnancy and 1 in 7 new mums (and 1 in 20 new dads) are diagnosed with postnatal depression every year (over 100,000 individuals in 2013). An even greater number experience anxiety and many people experience depression and anxiety at the same time.

Fortunately, there are many avenues of support – and with the right help and early intervention, recovery from perinatal (antenatal and postnatal) depression and anxiety is likely.

Early help is the key

It’s important for parents who are expecting a child, their families and friends to be aware of perinatal depression and anxiety – because getting help early means that recovery can take place faster. It’s often the case that a partner, family member or friend is the first to realize that something is not right. If you’re aware of the signs to look out for and where to go for assistance you can really help your loved one.

Dads are also at risk

There is a common misconception that antenatal and postnatal depression are only experienced by women, however research shows that 1 in 20 fathers are now diagnosed with depression during the antenatal or postnatal period each year in Australia (Deloitte 2012). Many more dads struggle without getting help or support.

According to PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association) fathers are more at risk of developing postnatal depression if their partner experiences it. However, men can also experience it independently of their partners. 

Again, it is very important for partners, families and friends to understand and recognise the signs of postnatal depression in men (which are different slightly to the signs in women) and to help them get help as soon as possible. This is particularly important as new fathers don’t access the same services as new mums (such as their doctor, maternal or child health nurse or midwife), where postnatal depression is often picked up.

To learn more we recommend you to visit these high-quality and reliable sites:



Welcome to COPMI’s new Lived Experience Forum members

The COPMI national initiative would like to thank members of the COPMI National Lived Experience Forum (CNLEF) who attended a two-day orientation process in Adelaide in early November.

Members reported great satisfaction after the meeting, with highlights including learning more about the COPMI initiative and the work to be done to improve outcomes for families, and having the opportunity to hear others’ stories of parental mental illness and the whole-of-family impact.

The purpose of the CNLEF is to work in collaboration with COPMI and other individuals with a lived experience of mental illness and to lend their perspectives to the planning, implementing and evaluation of the COPMI national initiative’s work.

Collaborative projects

Projects on which the CNLEF members will work together with COPMI include the following.

  • Developing new information resources for parents on supporting:
    • child resilience
    • family resilience
    • family recovery
  • Developing a guide to assist parents to promote a focus on family needs when accessing adult mental health services
  • Developing web-based educational materials for children and young people on parental mental illness and recovery
  • Developing workshop materials with other people with lived experience of mental illness to help organisations reflect on supports that they offer to parents and families.

A member shares her experience of the day

‘The Children of Parents with a Mental Illness Lived Experience cohort for 2014-15 met for the first time face-to-face on 6-7 November in Adelaide. We welcomed some new faces to the Forum and welcomed back some representatives from the 2012-2014 Forum. The group was lively and group members were very keen to hear the voices of the younger members of the meeting. 

The group considered an overview of the activities that joint teams of CNLEF members and secretariat staff will undertake. The projects are hands-on and CNLEF members will be responsible for driving them. Some of the tasks include development of recovery-oriented tools for families and a guide for families who are seeking assistance.
The meeting was a great platform for making contact with other members. We all look forward to developing some cutting edge materials for our community.’

If you would like to contact any of the Forum members, please contact COPMI’s Lived Experience Coordinator, Lydia Trowse


DVD helps parents talk to children and family about mental illness

Are you a parent who experiences depression and/or anxiety?  OR Are you a mental health professional working with these parents?*

If you’re either of the above and live in Australia, you can benefit from ordering a free Family Focus DVD.

What does the DVD do?

The DVD offers parents who experience depression and/or anxiety the tools to start a discussion with their family about it.


Open family discussion can help reduce the risks to the one million Australian children who live with a parent who has depression or anxiety and are at risk of developing their own mental health problems.

The DVD helps families and children to better understand the parent’s illness and start a conversation about it. This has been shown to strengthen children’s resilience and ability to cope.

What’s on the DVD?

The DVD features engaging fictional scenarios of a family where the father experiences depression, and another family where the mother experiences anxiety. There is a section for parents to view first, then a section specifically for children to view with their parent.

>Order DVDs here

*Professionals: There’s no limit to the number of DVDs you can order, so make sure you have copies on hand for the parents you work with. You can also access free training in the evidence-based Family Focus follow-up intervention here.



Scholarship recipients report on their experience

In September 2014 Diane Becker and Tracy Semmler-Booth (COPMI Workforce Development Officers) undertook the South Australian Premiers Nursing Scholarship study tour to Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Diane Becker says, ‘We wanted to expand our knowledge of innovative, evidence-based preventative interventions for children of parents with a mental illness, in the hope that progress in other regions could be brought back to Australia.’

‘We’ve been able to gain a greater understanding of therapies, programs and services and how training and workforce development practices have been used in the countries we visited.’

Tracy Semmler-Booth went on to say, ‘We had exposure to therapies and programs that are not used in Australia at the moment. It appears that legislative changes have been the major drivers that have led to development of successful nationwide prevention strategies.’

‘It’s been a long process for staff to start understanding the needs of children and to routinely incorporate this into everyday practice. Services have worked together to allow this organisational change – and currently it is routine practice to include a child perspective in discussions with parents.’

Tracy and Diane plan to further investigate how their learnings can be incorporated into their own clinical practice and their workforce development roles. ‘We’ve established professional links with a number of organisations and individuals who we will consult with now, to investigate the adaption of international interventions for the Australian environment.’

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