New Early Intervention Services For Parents, Children And Young People
The New Early Intervention Services for Parents, Children and Young People measure aims to support early intervention for children and young people who are at highest risk of developing mental health problems, or who are showing early behavioural signs or symptoms of mental health problems. It forms part of the Commonwealth’s component of the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006 – 2011.
Responsibility for the New Early Intervention Services for Parents, Children and Young People measure rests with the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.
The measure recognises that an estimated 14-20% of children and adolescents are affected by a mental health problem every year, but only one in four receives any professional help.
Mental health problems in childhood and adolescence can have far reaching effects on the physical well-being, educational, psychological and social development of individuals. Children who are mentally healthy are better able to:
- experience stronger relationships with teachers, family members and peers;
- negotiate challenges including the transition into adolescence and then adulthood;
- achieve long-term education and career goals; and
- enjoy a better quality of life.
When early signs of difficulty are not addressed, mental health problems can potentially become more serious and possibly extend into mental disorders.
The measure aims to provide support to children, young people and parents, in particular those at highest risk or showing early symptoms of mental health problems. Research into risk and protective factors reveals that there are a number of groups within the population that have particular mental health needs and can be at increased risk of developing mental health disorders. Additional attention and support for these groups can potentially prevent mental health difficulty. These groups include:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people;
- children affected by significantly adverse life events such as severe trauma, loss or grief; and
- children of parents with a mental illness.
The New Early Intervention Services for Parents, Children and Young People measure includes the KidsMatter initiative, a school based mental health promotion, prevention, and early intervention pilot which has been developed for use in primary schools.
A suite of KidsMatter activities is being delivered under the measure. This suite of activities includes:
- a transition year to test implementation models prior to a national roll-out of the KidsMatter primary school initiative in 2010;
- development and piloting of a KidsMatter preschool initiative;
- development and distribution of Response Ability, a resource for helping trainee preschool and early childhood teachers understand resilience and wellbeing;
- provision of support for groups at highest risk; and
- development and implementation of parenting programs for parents in families where children have early symptoms, or a diagnosis, of mental health illness such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or conduct disorders.
The school structure offers a systematic means to identify children at highest risk or who are already showing ‘early warning signs’, intervene early and engage children and young people to effective mental health treatment so that they are less likely to suffer from severe and enduring difficulties. Schools are also uniquely placed to provide information and support to parents and families regarding their child’s mental health and wellbeing.
The measure will build upon KidsMatter, expanding the concept into early childhood settings such as preschools and long day care.
The measure will also provide support and resources for children at highest risk of developing mental health problems, including additional support to ensure parents, primary schools and early childhood settings are able to appropriately identify and refer children at increased risk early, to prevent progression of early symptoms of mental illness into more serious disorders.
The Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma Loss and Grief Network is being developed to provide information specifically about these issues. The Network will provide an online forum for communication and sharing of information and expertise, as both a community and a professional resource. The goal of the network is to offer key resources to:
- professionals and community workers providing services for children and adolescents experiencing trauma, loss and grief;
- professionals and administrators involved in research, policy, education, and training;
- parents and other caregivers and interested members of the community.
The Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association have been funded to provide support, information and resources to workers and families regarding Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI).
In 2005, Maybery and Reupert, estimated that there were between 21% and 23% of children living in Australian households where at least one parent has a mental illness, equating to just over a million children at that time.
Not all children of parents with a mental illness will experience difficulties as a result of their parent’s ill health. However a combination of genetic inheritance and a range of factors often associated with mentally ill adults can increase risks to their children’s well-being.
COPMI provides information for family members across Australia where a parent has a mental illness and for people who care for and work with them. The website is one tool we use to deliver this information. We also work with the media, researchers, educators, service organisations, consumers, carers and others.
The COPMI initiative is being undertaken by the Australian Infant Child Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association (AICAFMHA) with funding from the Australian Government. The overall aim of the Australian COPMI initiative is to promote better mental health outcomes for children (0 – 18 years) of parents with a mental health problem or disorder.