My experience of Our Time and FutureLearn’s online training

Our Time’s FutureLearn course How to support young people living with parental mental illness appealed to me on a few counts. Firstly, in the hope of helping me to process my own experience of having a parent with a mental health illness, and to understand how adults and professionals look out for unheard voices. Secondly, to enable me to explore my own beliefs around mental health illness in a safe space and to listen to others’ viewpoints. And lastly, but most importantly, as a volunteer at the Our Time’s KidsTime Workshops, I was really keen to know how I can use my personal experience, plus knowledge from the course, to support other young people going through what I did. I was looking for practical tips and advice for me, but also ones to share with others. 

I have taken part in many training opportunities, many of which have been online in recent times. They can vary in quality! The first thing that I really liked about this course was the accessibility: the digestible sections, helpful functions (such as marking where you are up to as complete), the ability to comment and read others’ thoughts, as well as the variety in how content was presented. A mixture of videos, diagrams, case studies, published articles and discussion points all within the first week was brilliant. I particularly like the comments section, as it makes you feel as though you are taking part within a community of practice, rather than individually. One thing I need to remember to do is go back and read comments after I have completed the particular section to keep that discussion ongoing. Or perhaps a reflection in real time together would be useful. 

FutureLearn course on laptop

On starting the course, I have realised that support around mental health is better now, and I do believe the stigma is lessening, but there is still a way to go, particularly around the deeper understanding of the impact on family members.

A week in, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot already, including many things I wish I’d known as a young person:

  • Other young people are in the same position as me – as beautifully told through case studies 
  • Factors which contribute towards mental health illness are varied and often multifaceted – genes aren’t everything
  • There are lots of people who genuinely want to help but they may not know how to find you

My key takeaway so far is that professionals want to help, but need support to identify young people who may be struggling in silence. I’m hoping to pick up some practical advice on this, which I can share with others.