Animation still which is a close up of a girl's face

Animation explains mental illness to under-11s

Research shows that 25% of the school population live with a parent who has mental illness. Without help, 70% of them will go on to develop mental health problems in their youth, and 40% will require treatment by the age of 20.

The animation Making Sense of Mental Illness, commissioned by Our Time and created by PICNIC Studio, gives under-11s an explanation of what mental illness is, and what they can do if someone in their family is affected by it.

While teenagers and young people living with or caring for a parent with a mental illness need support, many of them have already experienced stigma, isolation or adverse effects before reaching secondary school.

Despite extensive work to destigmatise mental illness, students affected by parental mental illness are still difficult for schools to identify. Often children in this situation don’t identify as young carers themselves because the illness isn’t physical, or they feel confused or embarrassed about what’s going on.

CEO of Our Time Dympna Cunnane says: “Many teachers and school staff are wary of talking about mental illness, so we want to give them a good resource to help them start conversations with children. Animation is a good way of avoiding stereotypes and provides a light touch for a heavy subject.”

Research shows that when children and young people understand the illness, have someone supportive to talk to and know they are not alone, this can increase their resilience and help to protect their own mental health.

Dr Nicola Byrne, consultant psychiatrist in adult mental health, deputy medical director, Caldicott guardian and chief clinical information officer, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust says:

“Talking to each other about mental illness affecting ourselves or the people we love can be incredibly difficult. In my experience, too often we don’t even start those conversations with children affected by mental illness in their family, for fear of making things worse or just not knowing where to start, and children can be left worrying alone by themselves, often fearing the worst. It’s fantastic that Our Time are helping us get these vital conversations started, and supporting children in this situation to find out more and get the help they need in this situation.”

Our Time are currently fundraising to commission more animations to help young people affected by parental mental illness.

–   Ends –

Editor’s notes

Media contact

Christina Clarke, Communications Lead: 07939563756 Dympna Cunnane, CEO: 07800976778

Our Time Our Time is a charity that helps children and young people affected by parental mental illness. Founded in 2012, Our Time remain committed to campaigning and lobbying for their cause. We increase resilience and reduce the risk of mental health problems developing later in life. We work in both schools and the community to provide support for these children and their families.

PICNIC Studio is a creative studio specialised in animation production. Formed in 2013, their work spans across events, TV and Film, covering commercial, independent, and educational media for all ages. With a continued emphasis on diverse team make-up, PICNIC Studio’s work is imbued with styles and references from around the world.


1. Children’s Commissioner Vulnerability Report 2018

2. Rubovits, P. C. (1996). Project CHILD: An intervention programme for psychotic mothers and their children

Why children affected by parental mental illness must be seen and heard – Our Time report