Mayo has developed the country’s first online information resource for young people whose parents experience mental health distress. The WITH project (Wellbeing In The Home ), a young person’s guide to parental mental health, was launched in The Linenhall, Castlebar.
It is a collaborative project between Mayo Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS ), Community Healthcare West; Mindspace Mayo; young people representing Mindspace and Comhairle na nÓg and young people who have used the CAMHS service. All of the resources were developed under the guidance of people who share the experience of living in families where mental illness is a part of family life, young people and service providers in the mental health field.
At the launch Dr Sharyn Byrne, Senior Clinical Psychologist Mayo CAMHS, stated: “Young people with parents who experience mental health distress are at increased vulnerability to developing mental health, behavioural, social, interpersonal and academic difficulties.
"It is estimated that 10-15% of children experience parental mental health issues at some time in their childhoods, and one in three children and young people attending services have a parent with mental health difficulties - yet there are very few resources available to children and young people in Ireland on this topic.
"WITH provides information on various Mental Health difficulties that parents may experience and signposts young people to available supports. This resource was developed in recognition of the lack of such resources in Ireland, the distress that some young people can experience when their parent struggles with mental health difficulties and the need for this topic to be more openly discussed and resourced.
"Research into this area has often pointed to these children and young people as ‘forgotten’ and ‘hidden’ children. The resource aims to provide support and advice to these children and young people living with parental mental health distress.”
Ms Maria Walsh, MEP, who officially launched the project, said: “The aim of the WITH Project 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.”
At the launch, Niamh Lusson, a member of the WITH Project Youth Group since it began its work in 2017, said that “being involved in this project and working with the rest of the youth panel, CAMHS and Mindspace has been so rewarding.”
She added: “The WITH project is such a necessary resource for young people and their families and I'm so grateful I got to be a part of its creation. We finally have a resource dedicated to an often overlooked aspect of Mental Health and if we manage to help only one person, it will have been worth it”.
The WITH online resources are available on its dedicated YouTube channel and national websites such as www.mindspacemayo.ie , www.yourmentalhealth.ie and various HSE websites, making it accessible to young people across the country who live with the impact of parent Mental Health distress.