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How To Support Young People Living with Parental Mental Illness

Discover how parental mental illness impacts children’s development and learn skills and strategies to help young people affected

1,700 enrolled on this course

How To Support Young People Living with Parental Mental Illness
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Understand how parental mental illness can impact child development

On this course, you’ll build a deeper understanding of the impact a parent’s mental illness can have on a child, and learn how to deliver the support they need.

This support is designed to help children and young people develop resilience, overcome adversity and avoid a range of negative outcomes in later life, such as mental ill health.

Learn how to support children living with a parent who has a mental illness

The course begins by teaching you how to identify children living with a carer suffering from mental illness. Given their vulnerability, they may not have the confidence to open up and discuss the issue and the course will equip you with the skills you need to approach and help them open up.

You’ll be introduced to various strategies you can share with young people that they can implement in their daily lives to build their resilience.

Explore society’s attitudes towards mental illness

As part of this course, you’ll also explore society’s attitude and perception towards mental health, including the phenomenon of unconscious bias.

You’ll feel empowered by the knowledge and skills to critically reflect on the challenges that children who have a parent with a mental illness face and how this impacts their childhood.

Learn from Our Time’s and UCL’s experts

This course is taught by global experts from Our Time, an organisation founded by Dr. Alan Cooklin – an internationally recognised expert on children of parents with a mental illness – in collaboration with Professors from UCL.

Our Time is the leading organisation in supporting children living with parents suffering from mental illness, and you’ll benefit from their wealth of expertise on the topic and learn using evidence-based, global research.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 20 seconds Hello. My name is Dympna Cunnane. I’m the chief executive of Our Time charity. I became involved with the charity about three years ago when a friend of mine, Dr. Alan Cooklin, told me about the work that he was doing with families where there’s a parent with a mental illness. Over the last 20 years, we have been listening to young people and their families to understand the challenges they face and what needs to be done to support them. Alan developed this work in response to a plea from a group of young people who, having heard him speak at a conference, asked the question, “Is anyone interested in talking to us?”

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds This was the beginning of a long journey to understand the lives of these children and to find ways to support them. If you regularly work with children and young people, whether you’re a teacher, a social worker, or a medical professional, then this course is for you. The unique four-week course is designed in partnership with UCL and will enable you to understand the issue of parental mental illness better and how best to support the children and young people living with the issue. It will equip you with all the tools and strategies you need to ensure that this hidden group of young people are supported.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds Filled with practical approaches and tips, videos, and other resources, as well as expert advice, there’s also plenty of opportunity for you to connect and collaborate with other professionals. I do hope you enjoy the course.


  • Week 1

    The context and impact of parental mental illness

    • Introduction

      An overview of the course content and the topic of parental mental illness

    • Understanding the impact of parental mental illness

      We will explore how young people living with or caring for a parent with a mental illness are impacted in their every day lives.

    • Contributing factors of mental illness

      We explore the wide range of contributing factors that can lead to an adult or young person developing a mental illness or mental health concern.

  • Week 2

    Supporting Young People and and their families

    • Understanding and supporting COPMI in different settings

      An introduction to Our Time's approach for supporting 'COPMI' (children of a parent with a mental illness)

    • Who Cares?

      Our Time's specialist programme for school settings

    • KidsTime

      Our Time's national model of workshops designed to support families living with parental mental illness

  • Week 3

    Identifying 'COPMI' and understanding their needs

    • Identifying 'COPMI' and understanding their specific needs

      This week we will be exploring how to identify 'COPMI' (children of a parent with a mental illness) who are often a hidden and vulnerable group

    • Stigma and barriers

      We examine the stigma surrounding parental mental illness and the barriers this can create for young people living with this issue.

    • Addressing COPMI's needs

      How can we best listen to and respond to the needs of these young people?

  • Week 4

    Offering practical support and building resilience

    • The power of communication

      Here we will explore some specific practical activities to support COPMI

    • Supporting COPMI to build their own coping and resilience strategies

      How can we give young people the tools they need to build their resilience?

    • Reflection, assessment and next steps

      What have we learned and how can we carry this forward in our own practice?

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Add to Wishlist to be emailed when new dates are announced

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Reflect on the challenges facing young people who have a parent with a mental illness.
  • Demonstrate a deeper understanding of the issue and a greater sense of compassion.
  • Explore attitudes towards mental illness in society and how this contributes to the stigma attached to this issue.
  • Evaluate the most effective strategies, approaches and forms of communication to support young people who have a parent with a mental illness.
  • Apply some of the strategies in your own professional environment.
  • Explore a range of strategies and approaches that young people can implement themselves in order to build their resilience.
  • Explore ways to take a systemic approach to support young people who have a parent with a mental illness.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for health professionals, teachers, counsellors, social workers, and anyone else working with young people. No prior experience is or knowledge is required.

Who will you learn with?

I am a senior research fellow and lecturer in psychiatric epidemiology at the UCL Division of Psychiatry. I investigate the causes, treatment and prevention of depression and anxiety.

I am the CEO of Our Time. I have trained and worked in a wide range of therapeutic settings and am passionate about giving young people living with parental mental illness the space to be heard.

I am Our Time's Academic Advisor. I am a trained teacher working in schools and community settings to support children and young people, particularly those who are vulnerable or have additional needs.

Who developed the course?

UCL (University College London)

UCL was founded in 1826. It was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, and the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it.

Our Time

Over 2.9 million young people in the UK have a parent with a mental illlness. Our Time helps, campaigns for, and builds resilience in them.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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