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Helping young people to understand their parent’s mental illness – new educational youth videos

New videos clips for young people have been launched by the Children of Parents with a Mental illness (COPMI) national initiative, to help young people aged ten years to young adulthood. The short clips aim to strengthen children's understanding of their parent's mental illness and how symptoms can affect their parents' behaviour.

COPMI Director Brad Morgan says, 'These videos are for a large group of children and families where a parent has a mental illness. Evidence indicates that helping children and young people understand what they experience in relation to their parents mental illness can be of great benefit. These videos are a unique and much needed resource that can help.

Twenty-year-old Heather, who has a father diagnosed with bipoar disorder, agrees: ‘When I was searching for information about my parent’s mental illness, there wasn’t much available...I already felt isolated from my friends, and not being able to source reliable information compounded this feeling. On the odd occasion that I found videos about my parent’s mental illness, I couldn’t understand the jargon that was being used, which exacerbated my confusion. The COPMI videos change this.' Heather said. 

About video content

The videos deliver accurate information about mental illness in short, engaging clips that are each under six minutes long. They are presented by young people that children can relate to, in simple language. COPMI recommends that children from ten years and above can benefit from them.

The first videos address common questions for young people, such as ‘what is a mental illness?’ and ‘will my parent get better?', and the importance of taking care of your own wellbeing. The subsequent videos provide a description of six different diagnoses or symptoms. They aim to help young people to understand the behaviour that they notice or experience in relation to their parents' illness. The videos were produced alongside young people with a lived experience of their parents' mental illness and mental health professionals. The can either be viewed in isolation, or as a series.

Ann, a mother living with mental illness, has praised the resources: 'I think that these videos can really help to lift the 'fog' of confusion around mental illness for young people. If there was something like this around for my kids when I was unwell it would have helped to lift the stigma around it and given them some hope about things getting better in the future. I think other parents will really benefit from sharing the clips with their kids, or even watching them together and using them to start a conversation about it all.'

This is a point that Rose Cuff, Victorian Coordinator of Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness (FaPMI), considers pivotal: 'Conversations with children about their parent's mental illness are important. They help children understand the family situation and what they are experiencing. COPMI's new youth videos are a unique and vital addition to what's available that can help young people and their families in this situation.

Although the videos are aimed at young people, they can also be used by parents who may wish to start a conversation with their children about mental illness, to school environments and professionals who work with children and families. 'Professionals, children and parents alike can benefit from the real clarity of information about different mental illnesses that includes critical key messages about recovery, self-care and communication.' Rose Cuff says. 'Everyone can benefit.'

Other helpful resources for teachers, schools, educational staff

The COPMI national initiative offer a range of other resources for schools and those in the education field on their website: