Parental Mental Illness: Engaging with the children of parents with mental illness to increase their resilience


Event type Masterclass

The Passage, St Vincent's Centre, Carlisle Place, London

This event is in partnership with Our Time. You can book using the button above or download our form and either email or post it back to us. If you prefer, for security purposes, not to fill in your card details, please complete all other details on the form and we can then we can contact you by phone for these.

The WHO has stated that this as a major public health issue across the globe. ACE research identifies PMI as one of the 10 most significant adversities and risk factors for children and young people’s mental wellbeing.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understanding the nature and prevalence of the impact of parental mental illness
  • Clarity about the impact of not intervening and the positive impact of intervening as early as possible
  • Increased awareness of how to build resilience in affected children – a conceptual model of mental illness that both the children and parents can understand together
  • Recognition of the importance of protecting the child’s thinking from the disordered aspects of their parents’ thinking
  • Appreciation of the power of explanation and understanding as a protective intervention
  • Gain a new model of explanation as well as skills and confidence in talking to children and young people about mental illness

Who should attend

This masterclass is aimed at all those who are in direct contact with children who may have parents with mental illness. Those working with adult parents/clients who are parents including: psychologists, psychiatrists at all levels in both adult, child and perinatal mental health services. Mental health practitioners, nurse practitioners, health visitors, school nurses, occupational therapists. Social workers, teachers, midwives and general practitioners.

About the day

In 2008 the Social Care Institute of Excellence (SCIE) estimated that 2,000,000 children in the UK lived with a parent with mental illness or 1 in 6 in every classroom (20%). Last year Ernst and Young reviewed the data and concluded that the figure was closer to 3.4 million children and rising.

Mental illness in a parent can have a devastating impact on a child’s growth development and emotional life – as well as future mental health. However it does not have to. Many things: another ‘neutral’ parent (Rutter 1966 ), a supportive sibling, a good social network and/or activities such as sport or creative arts. Engagement in these can help build resilience, but for affected children to use these resources they need to be helped to manage their confusion, both about the illness and their, often partly or fully broken attachment relationship, with the ill parent. What is particularly useful is being helped to understand the illness process and its treatment – both on their own and together with the ill parent where possible: so that increasingly they have a language in which they can discuss what is happening to the parent when s/he is ill and the capacity to think independently about their situation. Research indicates that 70% of these children will suffer some level of largely preventable mental disturbance themselves by the age of 21.

About the Speakers

Dr Alan Cooklin

Alan Cooklin (M.B.Ch.B. F.R.C.Psych.) is a Family Psychiatrist. He was Consultant to the Family Project for Major Mental Illness for Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, and Hon. Senior Lecturer at University College London, and was Consultant in charge of Paediatric Liaison Services for UCL Hospitals. For 20+ years he was Director of the Marlborough Family Service, and was the Founding chair of the Association for Family Therapy in the UK, founding Director (and later Chairman) of the Institute of Family Therapy. He has worked with families for some 45 years. Within his current role he developed the ‘Kidstime’ workshops for families in which a parent suffers from mental illness.

Jessica Streeting MA

Jessica’s professional background and expertise is in child and adolescent public health, primarily nursing and lecturing. She is currently the Named Nurse for Looked After Children in Hammersmith and Fulham, working for CLCH NHS Community Trust.  Her school and public health nursing career has afforded her diverse opportunities including a recent secondment to Public Health England Chief Nursing Directorate as a School Nurse Advisor and a practice lecturer post at London South Bank University. In 2011 she was awarded the Queen’s Nurse title for pioneering a school nursing project in one diverse, high need London secondary school. This was when she first became involved with Who Cares? Project, where she saw the dramatic beneficial effect of the Our Time approach on the young people she worked with.


09.30 Introductions and Objective Setting – Jessica Streeting, Programme Lead for Who Cares? and Kirsty Taha-Wraith, beneficiary and Ambassador, Our Time

10.30 Children of Parents with a Mental Illness – Who are they and what is the impact?

11.15 Coffee break

11.30  Understanding the group and how to support them – Dr Alan Cooklin, Founder Our Time Charity

13.30 Live Case Study – Kirsty’s story and the young person’s perspective

14.00 Resilience – what do we know makes a difference?

14.30 An Explanation – helping the child to understand mental illness and what it means; gaining skills for talking to children about mental illness

16.00 Questions and Discussion

16.30 Close


Amongst our aims is the dissemination of information to bridge the gap between rigorous research and best practice in relation to child and adolescent mental health. One of the ways in which we do this is through our events, and we try to make these as accessible and affordable as is reasonably possible. The events we organise are not profit-making, many are subsidised through our other commercial activities, without which they would not be able to run. As a charity, any surplus that we make is invested back into the business to benefit our Members and the sector. Members get a discounted rate and we hope you consider joining.

Publications/Digital member – £74.00*
Platinum member – £147.00
Gold member – £168.00
Silver/Bronze member – £189.00

Non-member – £210.00

*NB there are no tickets left for Publications/Digital Members using a discount voucher