KidsTime Southwark project launched to help families affected by mental illness

The Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with the charity Our Time and the London Borough of Southwark, is launching an exciting new programme, KidsTime Southwark. This programme is designed to support families where parents have a diagnosed mental illness. KidsTime Southwark is an adapted version of Our Time’s group workshops, which provide a safe and enjoyable space for whole families to understand and explore their experiences.

The project, which received funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, is supported by Southwark MP Neil Coyle, whose own parents experienced mental illness. 

Neil said: “KidsTime Southwark will be an amazing support system for children and families in the borough and I thank the Mental Health Foundation and Our Time for their efforts to get this brilliant initiative off the ground at a very difficult time and when we know young people’s mental health has suffered as a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown.

“When I was younger mental health was not something that was spoken about openly, but the stigma and inability to talk about these issues has a particularly detrimental impact on the children who have parents with mental health conditions. KidsTime Southwark will tackle this by creating a meaningful space to allow children to speak about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing, with the intention of providing immediate support and boosting those children’s life chances longer-term”.

Katrina Jenkins, Programme Manager for the Mental Health Foundation, said: “The Mental Health Foundation focuses on prevention by addressing the factors that impact mental health. The KidsTime Southwark project brings families together to address the mental health needs of the whole family. We know that children in families affected by mental health issues can feel alone and often find it difficult to talk about their experience. This project provides that space for children and the whole family to understand their experience, gain support and enjoy time together with other families who are in similar circumstances.”

Dympna Cunnane, CEO of Our Time, said: “. “We are very grateful to our partners and funders for their commitment and dedication to this project. We are confident that the multi-family workshops will help many families to cope with their illness and the stress of living with COVID-19.

“For the next six months, the families will be supported virtually but we expect to return to the original workshop design by having monthly face-to-face meetings with whole family groups benefiting from the sense of community and mutual support that the workshops provide. We are proud to have trained a highly experienced and motivated team in Southwark who will create a supportive, safe space for these families to thrive and grow in confidence.  We know from experience that the workshops make a huge difference to the life chances of the children and young people who live with a parent with a mental illness.”

Councillor Jasmine Ali, Deputy Leader and cabinet member for children, young people, and schools at Southwark Council, said: “It is paramount that we focus on mental health, particularly where there are children in the family, and more so after what has been an incredibly challenging time for so many people. This is precisely why the council has prioritised children’s mental health, we have invested £2m in mental health prevention in schools and opened a free mental health drop in service for children and adolescents. This wonderful new intergenerational project is very welcome. It aims to support children and families by creating a sense of community and normality to discussing mental health issues, which I welcome. I wish the project, and the families who access the service, every success.”

KidsTime Workshops were developed by Our Time, who are thought leaders in how to support families where there is a parent with a mental illness. They provide a fun, safe environment where families affected by mental illness can come together to form a community, learn about mental health and support each other. This partnership project will deliver nine groups in total, across two years. Each group will offer 12 fortnightly workshops for families to attend over the course of six months. Because of COVID-19, the first three groups will be accessing the workshops online, with the programme being based on the original Our Time model. Future workshops will be provided in face-to-face groups delivering in Southwark Children’s Centres and education settings. 

The workshops are attended by parents and their children together for the whole family to learn about mental health and mental illness, facilitated by a small team who have been trained by Our Time. The workshops are designed to improve communication between parents and children and to increase the children’s self-confidence using creative methods, including drama and discussion, to increase understanding about mental health and to safely explore feelings and experiences.  At the end of each session, families enjoy a meal together to relax and promote connection. This project is part of the Mental Health Foundation’s aim of preventing mental health problems before they develop and reach crisis point.

The KidsTime Southwark programme, and the online adaptation of the model,  is being evaluated by the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families,  with the intention to create a strong evidence base from which to scale up support for families affected by parental mental illness. The research will evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention, with the long-term aim of extending the programme more widely across the country to reach many more families in the future. 

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Media contacts

If you would like to know more or are interested in interviewing our team or a young person affected by parental mental illness, please get in touch with the communications team:

  • Fran Edwards, Mental Health Foundation Press Office, 07786 437249, Fedwards@mentalhealth.org.uk
  • Dympna Cunnane – CEO Our Time – 07800 976 778
  • Christina Clarke – Communications Lead Our Time – 07939 563 756
  • Email – media@ourtime.org.uk

You can download Our Time’s brand guidelines and logos here.