Pilot plan to assist children

Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014

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A pilot project aimed at helping the children of people who suffer from mental health issues or addiction is set to begin in October.

The six-week programme, based in New Plymouth, has been developed by Supporting Families (SF) staff after they identified a specific service for children was a priority for the region.

SF is a free service which offers support, information and education to individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Psychotherapist Lynne Holdem said she estimated at least 4000 children across Taranaki had a parent with a mental health diagnosis or addiction issues.

The pilot programme will employ experienced art therapist Stacey Waterson to work with the children, while Holdem and another colleague run a separate parents' group.

The goal of the unique programme is to support children to ensure they do not blame themselves for their parent's illness and to provide them with age-appropriate understandings of how mental health issues impact on behaviour and thinking.

It will also help establish safety plans for the families involved and link children with adult mentoring and support.

Work behind the scenes on the project has been going on for several months, involving informal research and discussion with other service providers, including teachers, social workers and alcohol and drug counsellors.

"We are confident we have a well-designed and robust model and the goodwill of other agencies and stakeholders in the community sector," Holdem said.

Funding for the pilot, along with an evaluation, has been secured through the New Plymouth District Council community fund.

One woman excited about the potential of the programme is Wellington based Bronte Jefferies.

Formerly of Taranaki, Jefferies is researching what impact addiction and mental health issues of parents have on children as part of her degree in cultural anthropology.

As a child of parents who suffered from mental illness, Jefferies said she was only too well aware of some of the challenges children and young people in similar situations faced. On August 20, Jefferies will share some of her research findings at New Waves on Powderham St from 7pm.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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