Using research to inform care with Oxford University and Emerging Minds

Ensuring young people and their families have the support they need to better understand a parent’s mental health issues is a core part of what we do. 

We were therefore pleased to receive funding from Emerging Minds to collaborate with Oxford University researchers to form a Special Interest Research Group (SIRG) to identify research priorities for children of parents with a mental illness.

The SIRG aims to raise awareness of the impact of parental mental illness on children. By bringing together the views and experiences of families and professionals working with children and adults, we will develop shared research priorities for families affected by parental mental illness. Here’s a video to explain more:

At the end of the project, we hope to submit a research application to the James Lind Alli.

Parallel to this, we are also contributing to an inquiry led by the Public Services Committee into families’ experience of public services during the pandemic.

For this reason, we held two focus groups (one in April and one in May) with families from the KidsTime Workshops to gather views about their experiences of living with parental mental illness and accessing support for their family – what’s been good, what hasn’t, what specific things (in terms of support or professional interactions) have made a positive difference for their family, and would they like others to know about their situation?  

We also asked families about their experience of the pandemic, what helped them to cope, and what support they received, as we had heard from our workshops that this had been an especially difficult time for many. 

“Firstly, the lockdown was terrible in our house, because, for one, with my depression, it’s like related with health and death – they’re my two triggers, and so to have a pandemic come, it just floored me completely, and I couldn’t just help myself, I felt useless, I couldn’t help my kids, because I couldn’t tell them how it was going to go and when it was going to end…”

Importantly, in the discussions, many of the families shared how the KidsTime Workshops had had a big impact on their family, helping them to open up about mental illness, connecting them with others, and providing a safe, supportive and happy place for their family – a lot of the families said that the KidsTime Workshops really helped them to cope during the pandemic.

“I found it easier talking to the children about mental health and feelings.  Prior to attending KidsTime, I never knew how to talk about feelings with the kids, so the activities we do there did make it slightly easier.

Definitely the first lockdown, it was very overwhelming for me, all services came to halt; the only thing that I had was the KidsTime Workshop, and it was good having some human interaction, although it was virtual, it was nice to have that, and the phone calls and the check-ups, I felt cared-for, it kept me going; and doing the activities online, keeping the kids engaged and entertained, it was very helpful…”

For any professionals interested in contributing to developing research priorities for children of parents with a mental illness, we are running a webinar on Wednesday, 16th June, 5.00-6.30pm, on Zoom. This webinar will bring together experts by experience, researchers and professionals working with children and adults to share knowledge and insights, and we want to hear your views. To sign up, click here.