Oslo conference – It Takes a Village

Alan Cooklin, Lenny Fagin, Dympna Cunnane and Kirsty Tahta Wraith (who got a full bursary) attended an international conference on parental mental health “It Takes a Village” in Oslo in May.

We presented our work in workshops, lectures, discussion groups and over dinner and social events with other organisations working with children of parents with mental illness. We learned a lot about what other countries are doing to support this target group.

It was interesting to see that working with the whole family was an innovation on the part of Our Time and this was of interest to many of our overseas colleagues. We heard about some inspiring work being done in Finland in the school setting based on the idea that the school and the home are where children develop through the care that is given and the work is directed at creating a trusting alliance between the family and the school.

In Norway, the government have passed legislation to support children in a programme called “Children as Next of Kin” meaning that children have to be included in any service which is delivered to the family. We saw, once again that Australia is leading the way with national recognition and policy to support children of parents with a mental illness (COPMI).

One striking example of this was an online mentoring project called iSpot where a cohort (of about 60 young people) is recruited to form an online chat group which meets weekly for an hour, for six weeks. The forum is facilitated by students who are studying psychology and supervision is provided by the academic responsible for this module. The results are still being collected and analysed but first results show that the students stayed with the programme and they reported decreased levels of anxiety and increased self -confidence.

We met other groups in the UK who are working in this field and held a Round Table to discuss how we might work together to have a louder and more coherent voice which will shift the dial on the policy level.

As a result of this, we plan to work together to host a national conference on parental mental illness on December 13th in London in collaboration with the Royal Society of Medicine and the Association of Children and Adolescent Mental Health. We will let you have more details on that as the planning progresses.