Dr Alan Cooklin
Alan is a pioneering family psychiatrist with 50 years’ experience of supporting families affected by mental illness. He developed Our Time’s workshop model, with other professionals, as a way to help the children of parents with mental illness understand their parent’s illness, to feel less responsible for it, and less fearful of ‘catching’ it.
“I have always been aware that a thin line separates strange family behaviour (of my early family) from mental illness. Then, as I trained, I realised that the contemporary model of psychiatry isolated the ill individual both psychologically and socially, and took little or no account of the mutual influence of family and other close relationships. After 35 years trying to make good this deficiency, I realised that the most vulnerable members of the family were still left out. Most approaches to working with parents with a mental health problem isolate the ill individual and take little account of the impact on other family members. This is now changing, and Our Time has been at the forefront of this movement.”
Claire has been a director of nursing, working on NHS Mental Health and Community Trust boards for 15 years. She worked in clinical and operational service roles in family and mental health and safeguarding, and then took up a role as the Royal College of Nursing’s national adviser in primary care. She also worked as a policy adviser in the chief nursing officer’s team on nursing in primary care and school health. Claire is an honorary clinical professor of nursing at Middlesex University’s Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.
“As someone who has worked directly with families where a parent suffers with mental ill health, as well as managing front-line teams in health and care, I have seen first-hand the devastating impact on children’s lives. Children of a parent with mental illness are astonishingly creative and courageous – taking on young carer roles with their mum or dad which would defeat many an adult. But this is often at great expense, as their chances to do well at school, build friendships and grow into well-balanced adults are diminished.”
Dr Leonard Fagin
Leonard is a consultant psychiatrist and honorary senior lecturer at University College London. He set up the Hackney KidsTime Workshop and offers parental mental health supervision in Hackney Children and Young People’s Services. He is a recognised authority on this subject and has authored books and papers on a variety of subjects including the effects of unemployment, burnout in mental health professionals, how to improve therapeutic environments in in-patient settings, and care of people with personality disorders.
“As a consultant psychiatrist working for many years in deprived areas of east London, I was able to see the transgenerational impact of mental health in families. Helping children to develop resilience, while coping and responding to parental mental illness, offers an opportunity to break this cycle for future generations. Our Time aims for the creation and dissemination of interventions that can aid this process, and as a trustee I welcome the opportunity of making a contribution in this much needed arena.”
Chineye has been a young carer of a parent with mental illness for most of her life. She was originally an attendee at KidsTime Workshops, and is now an ‘experience counsellor’, using her own past experiences to help other young people who have a parent with a mental illness. She has a Biomedical Science Degree, MSc in Mental Health: Psychological Therapies, Postgraduate in Low Intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and currently works as a cognitive behavioural therapist and safeguarding lead for Enfield IAPT ( Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). Chineye has combined her work and personal experiences by acting as both an advocate for the needs of children and young people and giving professional presentations to different groups in the UK and Europe.
Dr Guinevere Tufnell
After training as a doctor and then a psychiatrist, Guinevere worked in a wide variety of mental health services before becoming a child and family psychiatrist. She was a consultant psychiatrist with the child and family unit of the Traumatic Stress Clinic (TSC) in central London. At Great Ormond Street Hospital, Guinevere specialised in assessing and treating children and families who had been psychologically traumatised as a result of experiencing violence, abuse and bereavement. She has a longstanding interest in improving the general understanding of mental health issues, and has collaborated on numerous public education projects for the Royal College of Psychiatrists. She was commissioning editor for Mental Health & Growing Up – a series of factsheets available on the RCPsych’s website – for parents, teachers and young people. She has published articles on a variety of topics relating to child mental health. She also worked for many years on the telephone advice line for parents run by the child mental health charity YoungMinds, where she was also a trustee.
“I wish Our Time had existed when I was working with children and families in east London. They would have been so valuable because Our Time provides a unique opportunity for children and young people to boost their understanding and shrink their fears about mental illness. It’s a safe space where they can share information with each other and with family members – and feel stronger and more confident about how to get help if they need it.”
Ambeya has been an active ambassador for the charity and her ongoing support has been recognised in her role as an NHS Changemaker. Within this role, she voices the concerns of young people, ensures young carers have recognition and helps the NHS manage their social return on investment. She has completed several demanding fundraising activities and advised policymakers and educators on parental mental illness, and how to recognise and support affected children. As a young carer herself, Ambeya is passionate about helping others, which is reflected through her ongoing commitment and contribution to the charity. She supports young people in monthly workshops and has proactive involvement in the ‘Who Cares?’ programme, offering recommendations based on her own personal experiences.
“Working for Our Time is always an amazing, yet overwhelming experience for me. Having never had a KidsTime Workshop experience whilst growing up, I see it as my obligation to prevent others experiencing a tough childhood. Seeing a smile on a child’s face when they leave a workshop is one the most rewarding experiences I have encountered.”
Louise has had a successful career as a PR and communications consultant working with many different organisations, across all sectors. She is now a trained and accredited executive and business coach (PGC, ICF) and founder of her own company Eidyia Ltd. She is also a visiting lecturer in Public Relations at Regent’s University, London, and a board trustee at London Youth.
“I believe that each generation has an obligation to pass on to the next a world that features an improved level of wellbeing and greater equality of opportunity. Our Time works with a group of children and young people who, because they are not widely recognised as having very specific support needs, may struggle to grow up healthy and achieve their potential. With deceptively modest, but very effective interventions, it is clear to me that Our Time can make a real difference to future generations. I am delighted to have the opportunity to become a trustee and hope to make a contribution to Our Time’s continued growth.”
Esther has worked with Our Time as a project manager and project developer. She has a BA and MA in Visual Media and has worked with fellow trustees and Our Time’s founder, Dr Alan Cooklin, over the past 10 years to create a portfolio of resources for professionals. Esther was a company director at Team Media Management where she worked as a production manager and editor on projects for both the corporate and NGO sector, creating films and online learning projects in training and wellbeing.
“Over the past five years I have enjoyed seeing the work of Our Time make a difference to families and children, and would like to see it become more widely available to ensure more families benefit. I’m excited about the next five years for the charity.”
Naomi is the co-director of a communications agency specialising in PR, marketing, social media and events within publishing and the arts. She is also the co-founder of the COR Collective, a training school offering courses in public speaking, confidence and resilience.
Naomi contacted Our Time and asked to be involved as both her parents have struggled with mental health issues. The workshops are something she wishes she’d had access to as a child. She is leveraging her PR skills and networks to organise a series of events and activities to raise funds and awareness for the cause.