A WODONGA father who suffered depression for a decade has welcomed a DVD that helps parents talk to their children about their mental illness.
The free DVD is the first of its kind in Australia and was put together by Children of Parents with a Mental Illness with support from Beyond Blue.
Fred Ford, 56, is a former family and carer support worker and works with COPMI.
He has suffered major depression “on and off” for more than 10 years.
Mr Ford said his four children were aged between 10 and 16 when he and his wife were mentally ill.
He said there was nothing then available such as the DVD called Family Focus.
“That’s one of the biggest issues,” Mr Ford said.
“That for myself was a big problem. I didn’t handle that situation well with my kids. I looked at it from an adult perspective rather than a kid’s perspective.”
Mr Ford said the DVD gave tips on how to talk to children; it also had a component for children of parents with a mental illness.
“Young people can’t communicate the way we do and quite often that comes out in behaviours,” he said.
“They pick up on what’s happening with parents — their perception is fantastic — but they don’t understand what’s happening.”
Australian Infant Adolescent and Mental Health Association chairman Phil Robinson said Family Focus was a “huge” step in mental health prevention.
“When parents talk openly about mental illness with their children, they are much more resilient to developing mental health problems themselves,” Mr Robinson said.
It’s estimated more than one million children live in families where a parent has depression or anxiety.
Mr Ford said through his work as a support worker he had found children often felt alone.
“Again, the DVD shows them that they’re not alone, that they’re not to blame, that it’s not their fault,” he said.
“It’s letting the kids know they can talk about it, they can ask questions and it’s not something to be ashamed of.
“It’s an illness, like any other.”
He said parents must realise that just because they have a mental illness, it didn’t make them bad parents.
“While my wife had a mental illness, she is an exceptional mother,” he said.
Family Focus was developed by Australian psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, occupational therapists, social workers and researchers, and Australian parents and children with experience of parental depression/anxiety.
It’s available for families and support workers for free by going to familyfocusdvd.com.au.