Our Time joint conference inspires conversation about parental mental illness

On Friday, 13th December, Our Time hosted a joint conference with ACAMH at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

Ably hosted by Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, the conference brought together many from the healthcare, psychiatry, child and adolescent mental health services and research fields to discuss parental mental illness and its impact.

Following introductions and some powerful testimonies from families performed by London Bubble, we heard from Professor Sir Michael Marmot on early childhood and future lives and this was followed by a panel discussion/Q&A.

“We want social changes because they will enable our children to flourish. Not because we are left wing or right wing but because we want the best for our children.”

Profressor Sir Michael Marmot, Director, Institute of Health Equity, University College London

He shared his compelling research into health inequality and the impact of social and environmental factors on physical and mental health.  His findings demonstrate an indisputable link between a person’s social status and their health and wellbeing outcomes from early childhood, setting out a strong case for change.

Dr Alan Cooklin, founder of Our Time, took to the stage next and discussed the impact of a parent’s mental illness on children.

“What helps resilience? A clear explanation which results in an objective reduction in children’s mental health difficulties.”

Dr Alan Cooklin, Founder of Our Time

Norway have made huge advances in the recognition of children as next of kin and we were delighted to welcome Siri Gjesdahl and her colleagues from Barns Beste to highlight how changes in government policy have enabled them to ensure that practitioners look beyond just the patient and ask if there are children that need support too. There is also a network to share best practice.

“For specialist healthcare services, ‘thinking family’ & considering the children must be a fixed theme in every examination.”

Siri Gjesdahl, Barns Beste

Chris McCree from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) took the next session which introduced the ‘Think Family’ model they use in their practices. She shared some moving testimonies from families about how the approach they have taken at SLaM has helped them develop their own parenting skills and build better relationships with their children.

Dr Lina Gatsou and Scott Yates from DeMontfort University took to the stage for the penultimate session and outlined how they are putting the concept of ‘Think Family’ at the heart of their programme to support families affected by parental mental illness in Leicestershire. It is encouraging to hear real-world examples where they have had great success in supporting families affected.

The final session of the day was presented by Dr Alan Stein who has done extensive work on the impact of perinatal depression on child development.

“The effect on the child is not inevitable. However, we need to do more to break the intergenerational cycle of mental illness.”

Dr Alan Stein, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Oxford

The day concluded with a panel discussion. The event was incredibly well-received by all who attended and we hope that this is just the start of putting children and young people at the heart of the conversation when working with a parent affected by mental illness.

“Children affected by parental mental illness have strengths they didn’t know they had.”

Dr Alan Cooklin
Chineye and Kirsty speaking about their lived experience