A father’s story – how Our Time helped my family

My name is Iain Wraith. I am a single father who brought up my twin daughters whilst suffering from bipolar disorder. We attended KidsTime Workshops from when my children were eight until their mid-teens. First and foremost, I am writing [this blog] to express my overwhelming support and gratitude towards the KidsTime Workshops for the way they have helped my family. I truly believe that an adoption of its teachings and techniques in school is vital to create a generation of aware, educated and sympathetic citizens and teachers and, more importantly, to make young carer’s experience and chance of success in education more equal to that of other students.

The KidsTime Workshops helped my whole family – my daughters and I – equally. It helped me to maintain a good understanding of what it was like for myself and other parents who had a mental illness to cope bringing up a young family. I feel it helped the children to cope with the demands of the situation we found ourselves in.

I think it helped the kids to understand that having a mentally ill parent was not a ‘freaky’ thing; this meant that they felt less embarrassment and helped prevent any stigma they might have felt. This is just one of the ways I believe that the teachings of Our Time helped my children to cope better and to get on with their lives with minimal distraction due to their carer role. I also feel it prepared them for the future, by teaching them about and preparing them for the other struggles that this could entail throughout life and how to cope.

I feel KidsTime Workshops were the only place where we could openly discuss my mental illness in a way that was appropriate for the whole family – both adults and children – for example, the kids would do the dramas, which were a great way of understanding mental illness. The children would ask more questions about my mental health after going to the group which lead to them being more informed also. I believe Our Time’s ‘Who Cares?’ programme will evoke the same reaction in school children.

Going to the group, especially the dramas, relieved any anxieties that the children had because they were around other children in the same position, who were open about their experiences. This led to my children feeling more comfortable to be open about their experience and getting involved in conversations about it. The groups instilled a lot of confidence within our family, most importantly the children, for whom this was a very new thing for them to cope with.

I believe that the ‘Who Cares?’ programme should have the same sort of effect as KidsTime Workshops, by introducing into schools a greater understanding of the situation that children of mentally ill parents are in. This is really important to get across in schools as it is an everyday situation for a lot of people.  If their peers get a better understanding too it will take away the stigma and lessen bullying that I know happens often as a result of their situation. It helps other children sympathise with young carers, take a walk in their shoes almost, and this is a really important step in preventing bullying. This is something that the KidsTime Workshops did: they helped me sympathise, and get a more accurate understanding of what their role is and what having a parent with a mental illness like me would be like. And I know it helped them be more sympathetic of how my mental illness would affect my role as a parent. Therefore, the ‘Who Cares?’ programme should give these children more self-confidence and make them feel more empowered in their school and domestic lives.