- ‘Helping my child and family’ – information for parents
- Keeping Families and Children in Mind – eLearning course
- Special edition of the Advances in Mental Health journal
- Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week
- Face to face meetings of the CNRG and CNLEF
Mental illness is a family experience. Many parents with a mental illness (and their partners) have expressed the desire to know how they can support their child and family who also experience the impact of mental illness.
The COPMI website’s ‘helping my child and family’ section provides useful planning and talking tools for parents and families. It encourages parents to think ahead about the ways in which they can support their children and the family unit, both during the tough times, and when things are running more smoothly.
The section features information on:
- Keeping connected when you’re unwell (or in hospital)
- Talking about mental illness with your child (including information for different age groups)
- Your child’s support network
- About ‘care plans’ (preparing for a mental health crisis)
- Talking to your child’s school about your mental illness
- Maintaining routines to support a sense of security for you child
- Managing household chores and roles
- When your worried about your child’s mental health
The content on these pages was written with guidance by professionals, parents with a mental illness, their children and family members.
On the left, meet Julie Hamilton (a mum who experiences bipolar disorder), her son Jaxon (4 years) and daughter Chloe (14 years). They are one of the fictional families that are featured in COPMI’s Keeping Families and Children in Mind eLearning course.
This free online course assists learners to use a ‘family focus’ when working with families where a parent has a mental illness.
The course was designed for mental health workers and other allied workers (such as mental health nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, general practitioners and other workers). The general public are also welcome to use it.
The course is a result of extensive consultation with professionals and people who have a lived experience of mental illness and parenting, including young people, carers and partners.
Course participants typically take six to ten hours in total to complete the course (including viewing the videos and completing the required assessments). There are six learning modules that cover mental health and families, the parent, the child, the family, carers and putting skills into practice in the workplace.
Benefits of the course
There are numerous benefits to taking this course. The course is:
- interactive, practical and engaging – making learning easier
- delivers up to date, evidence-based content and information
- presents the lived experience of children and families where a parent experiences mental illness
- presents the views of leading professionals in the field
- features two fictional, realistic families for workers to try out new approaches
- available 24/7 – go at your own pace, at any time
- endorsed by many professional associations for continuing professional development points
The course was designed for solo use and also for use within a group training setting. It focuses on the practical and achievable ways to incorporate a family focus into practice in most workplace settings. It is also a valuable resource for a range of educators and others in the community who work with families where a parent has a mental illness or mental health condition.
This month a special edition of the Advances in Mental Health journal focuses on ‘prevention and early intervention for children and families where parents have mental illness’.
The articles were written by leading academics and professionals from a range of sectors.
The edition features an editorial and six articles on the following topics:
Note: Most of the articles can either be purchased via the Advances in Mental Health journal or can be accessed via organisational membership.
- Editorial: ‘Advancing the prevention of intergenerational mental illness: Where are we now, where do we go from here?
- ‘Fathers’ experiences of mental illness stigma: scoping review and implications for prevention’ – Can be freely downloaded as a PDF
- ‘Borderline personality disorder and parenting: clinician perspectives’
- ‘When your parent has a mental illness: children’s experiences of a psycho-educational intervention’
- ‘Pathways of Care: targeting the early childhood sector for early intervention’
- ‘Building capacity for cross-sectorial approaches to the care of families where a parent has a mental illness’
Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week runs from November 15 to 21. It offers 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).
You may have noticed that the name has changed this year (from Postnatal Depression Awareness Week) in order to reflect two very important things:*
- Supporting parents’ mental health right through the perinatal period (during pregnancy and after birth). Antenatal anxiety and depression are strong risk factors in developing postnatal anxiety and depression. We need to consider a parent’s wellbeing across this continuum, rather than viewing these periods as separate.
- Perinatal anxiety is now believed to be just as, if not more, common than depression.
Symptoms of anxiety vary in each parent, however they can be just as debilitating as depression.
In Australia, up to one in ten women and one in 20 men experience antenatal depression each year. 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 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 perinatal depression and anxiety is only experienced by women, however research shows that 1 in 20 fathers are now diagnosed with depression during the antenatal period each year in Australia and one in 10 new dads struggle with depression following the birth of their baby (postnatal).* Many more dads struggle without getting help or support.
According to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) fathers are more at risk of developing postnatal depression if their partner experiences it. However, men can also experience it independently of their partner.
Again, it is very important for partners, families and friends to understand and recognise the signs of perinatal anxiety or 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 pages:
- The PANDA website (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) – offers information and support
- New mums information – on the COPMI website
- The ‘How is dad going?’ website – for men experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety (or with partners who are)
- The beyondblue website’s information – about the perinatal period
- The Raising Children Network’s website – for information about caring for someone with postnatal depression
- COPMI’s booklet for new mums – ‘The best for me and my baby’
- For professionals – Supporting infants and toddlers of parents with a mental illness
*From the PANDA Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia website
The COPMI national initiative would like to thank members of the COPMI National Reference Group (CNRG) and the COPMI National Lived Experience Forum (CNLEF) who attended meetings on the 9th and 10th of November in Adelaide.
Both groups provide advice, guidance and input into the activities and strategies of the COPMI national initiative.
Reference Group meeting
The CNRG includes members from professional mental health groups and associations, national mental health initiatives and also family members with lived experience of mental illness.
During the meeting, members had the opportunity to:
- discuss and provide feedback on current activities of the COPMI national initiative
- discuss opportunities to strengthen the responsiveness of different sectors to meet the needs of children of parents with a mental illness
- learn about practice standards developed for adult mental health professionals through the Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness (FAPMI) strategy
- facilitate networking between members of the National Reference Group and the National Lived Experience Forum.
Lived experience forum
The CNLEF consists of parents, partners, young people and carers who provide advice and guidance to the national initiative from the perspective of those who have lived experience of mental illness. Jane Grace, a current forum member, shares her feedback about the meetings on the 9th and 10th of November.
‘The CNLEF meeting on the 10th of November was diverse and interesting. Feedback from the reference group was provided and and an opportunity to meet with the forum members themselves. The follow-up conversations with reference group members afterwards led to some good ideas being shared and some linkages made.
A number of matters were discussed including COPMI’s plans for the remainder of this funding period and some policies for the future. Development of the ‘toolkit’ for families prompted discussion. Feedback from the forum has helped to sharpen the focus of the toolkit and highlight areas for improvement. Another document called ‘My child’s support network’ was considered by members. It sets out roles and connections and is designed to be used by the parent, and also the child.
In summary, the meeting provided a great link up between carers and consumers on the forum and we were energised to continue with the next stage of the COPMI work program.’
- Learn more about COPMI’s consultation and collaborative approach
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