The COPMI (Children of Parents with a Mental Illness) national initiative promotes better mental health outcomes for children of parents with a mental illness. We spoke with Bradley Morgan, COPMI Director, about the support available for families touched by parental mental illness.

How does COPMI help Australian families?

“The aim of COPMI is to foster better mental health outcomes for children of parents with a mental illness, reduce stigma associated with parental mental illness, and help friends, family and workers identify and respond to the needs of the children and their families where parental mental illness exists. We develop information for parents, their partners, carers, family and friends – along with online training courses for professionals – to support families either individually or through community services and programs.” 

How many Australian parents and carers are affected by mental illness?

“It is estimated that over one million Australian children (or up to 23%) from birth to 18 years of age have at least one parent with a mental illness.” 

How are children – and families – most affected by parental mental illness?

“Children of parents with a mental illness face a unique set of challenges and risk factors; these can include a higher risk of learning difficulties, relationship problems, substance abuse and developing mental health issues themselves. However, these outcomes are far from inevitable. At COPMI we champion successful prevention and early intervention programs like our recently launched Family Focus intervention, which provides clinicians with tools to help build family resilience and facilitate family communication and problem-solving. This approach is proven to make a huge difference in the wellbeing of children living in households where a mental illness is experienced.”  

What does KidsMatter offer these families? 

“KidsMatter offers families a range of resources and information that can strengthen parents’ understanding of their children’s mental health and emotional development, including factors that can strengthen the mental wellbeing and resilience of children. KidsMatter can also link families to additional information, resources and services designed specifically for families where a parent experiences mental illness.”

Walk us through some of the COPMI resources for children, young adults, parents and carers, and professionals. 

“Our resources are developed under the guidance of people who share the experience of living in families where mental illness is a part of family life, and of leading researchers and service providers in the mental health field: 
  • Resources for parents and carers:  Information for mums and dads, grandparents and others; a directory of programs and services in local areas; a dad’s section with video tips and discussion; tips on how to talk to children and young people; and ideas on strengthening resilience in children.
  • Resources for families and friends: Understanding mental illness; how to help your loved one; how to support young people in the family; and coping strategies/suggestions.
  • Resources for kids and teens/young adults: Learn about mental illness; tips from other young people; how to help mum or dad; and cool video messages and fun stuff.
  • Resources for professionals who work with families: Guidance for professionals in a range of settings; free interactive eLearning courses; evidence-based information and research; support for the development of policies, practices and processes; and evaluation tools and research information.”
Resources can be accessed at www.copmi.net.au in a range of community languages.  Hard copy and DVD resources may be ordered online and are free to families.