KidsTime Southwark: New support for children whose parents are struggling with mental illness

Katherine Johnston (16 October, 2020)

'The stigma and inability to talk about these issues has a particularly detrimental impact on the children who have parents with mental health conditions' - Neil Coyle

39620Image courtesy of Our Time, a charity supporting families experiencing mental illness

A new project supporting the children whose parents suffer from mental health problems launched in Southwark this week.

KidsTime Southwark is a partnership between charity Our Time, Southwark Council, and the Mental Health Foundation with support from the National Lottery.

It will focus support on families where one or both parents have a diagnosed mental illness.

A series of workshops will bring together families across the borough to talk about mental health and provide emotional and practical support.

Described as the first of its kind in the country, the sessions will be online for now but move to face-to-face as soon as is safe given COVID-19.

Neil Coyle, whose mother has suffered from schizophrenia since his early childhood, has backed the programme, saying with the ongoing impact of the pandemic, its work is needed more than ever.

“KidsTime Southwark will be an amazing support system for children and families in the borough and I thank the Mental Health Foundation and Our Time for their efforts to get this brilliant initiative off the ground at a very difficult time and when we know young people’s mental health has suffered as a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown,” the Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP said.

“When I was younger mental health was not something that was spoken about openly, but the stigma and inability to talk about these issues has a particularly detrimental impact on the children who have parents with mental health conditions.

“KidsTime Southwark will tackle this by creating a meaningful space to allow children to speak about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing, with the intention of providing immediate support and boosting those children’s life chances longer-term”.

The workshops are a run by a small team trained by Our Time, and are attended by parents and children together. 

The aim is to improve communication and help increase kids’ self-confidence using drama and discussion in a safe space to explore their feelings and experiences – aiming to avoid problems reaching crisis point.

Dympna Cunnane, Our Time’s CEO, said: “We are very grateful to our partners and funders for their commitment and dedication to this project.

“We are confident that the multi-family workshops will help many families to cope with their illness and the stress of living with COVID-19. 

“For the next six months, the families will be supported virtually but we expect to return to the original workshop design by having monthly face-to-face meetings with whole family groups benefiting from the sense of community and mutual support that the workshops provide.

“We are proud to have trained a highly experienced and motivated team in Southwark who will create a supportive, safe space for these families to thrive and grow in confidence. 

“We know from experience that the workshops make a huge difference to the life chances of the children and young people who live with a parent with a mental illness.”

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