'Who Cares' programme

The ‘Who Cares? programme

“Schools need to realise that something needs to be in place in school time, not just afterwards, because you might have to be at home to look after your mum or dad. It’s important to have some space, somewhere, some time. I didn’t have that for a long time.”

– Joel, age 16

Who Cares?’ is a question faced by many young people who live with a parent with mental illness. They may be openly, or even without acknowledgement, caring for the emotional life of their parent. Many young people have told us ‘I had to parent myself,’ leaving them unsure of how to manage their own emotional lives, and at risk of absorbing their ill parent’s often unhappy view of the world.

In an average classroom, eight children have a parent with a mental illness. School life is a potential haven from a difficult family situation, but a preoccupation with home stresses, may mean affected children cannot utilise this and are often bullied because they are seen as different. 

Our Time has developed a school-based intervention to help these children. We know they are often difficult for teachers and school staff to identify and effectively support, particularly with limited time and resources. Our Time’s programme ‘Who Cares?’ has been designed with this in mind, in collaboration with teachers, young people and health professionals. It offers three kinds of intervention:

  • Awareness raising, identification skills and practical help for school staff in responding to affected young people and their families
  • A ‘culture changing’ educational programme for teachers to use with all students to improve sensitivity and understanding
  • Practical help for affected children in thinking about, responding to, and managing their feelings towards their parent/s and peers

The programme provides guidance and training for primary and secondary school staff and teachers, to raise awareness of parental mental illness and support those affected by it. All our ‘Who Cares?’ guides, lesson plans and activities are free to download, and have the flexibility to be delivered as short exercises or through structured lesson plans. All of our downloadable resources are complemented by Our Time’s training for school staff.

How does it work?

Vice Principal Anita Frier“Through ‘Who Cares?’ we have become a mental health aware school. It has become embedded in our culture and something we, staff and students, are very proud of.”

– Anita Frear, Vice Principal, Stoke Damerel Community College

When children develop a way of understanding mental illness, it can improve their own resilience. In fact, our research shows consistently that the three things young people affected by parental mental illness say they need is:

  • a trusted person who will listen to them
  • an explanation of what mental illness is
  • reassurance that they are not alone

Understanding combined with positive school experiences and the opportunity to challenge negativity can improve school attendance, participation and attainment. Schools say the ‘Who Cares?’ programme also improves the overall school atmosphere, with increased confidence in affected children and peer group relationships.

What’s provided

The ‘Who Cares?’ programme provides a comprehensive kit of materials and a support system for teachers and students to address the needs of young people affected by parental mental illness, and the attitudes of others towards them.

Through drama sequences, video interviews with young carers, advice from professionals, written materials, exercises and activities, our programmes promote discussion about the experiences of living with mental illness.

Interested in running ‘Who Cares?’ in your school?

We’ve produced a guide to help you get started with ‘Who Cares’ . For more information, visit Training on the Our Time website.

More for schools and colleges

Training for schools
'Who Cares' programme

Find out how our training can help you to support students affected by parental mental illness

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