“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.