Suffer with

The Insti­tut Kinder­seele Schweiz foun­da­tion is commit­ted to support­ing the child­ren and teen­agers of mentally ill parents. In Switz­er­land, 300,000 young people are affected.

‘It all began when my mother star­ted chan­ging more and more,’ explains Emily in a video. ‘She kept getting sadder.’ In this exam­ple case from the Insti­tut Kinder­seele Schweiz (IKS) foun­da­tion, Emily explains to her peers what it means when adults have mental health issues. Emily’s mother suffers from depression.

17 percent affected

Depres­sion, addic­tion and anxiety: in short films, IKS explains the most common mental illnesses in an easy-to-under­stand way. The foun­da­tion was laun­ched in 2014 with the aim of streng­thening the mental health of child­ren and young people in Switz­er­land – focu­sing their inter­ven­ti­ons within the family circle. In Switz­er­land, over 300,000 child­ren have a mentally ill parent. This figure is an esti­mate, as there is no natio­nal data­base with this infor­ma­tion. It is based in part on data from the mental health insti­tute Inte­grierte Psych­ia­trie Winter­thur: in 2018, 17 percent of the institute’s pati­ents had child­ren under legal age. As the data was not available for all pati­ents at the time this infor­ma­tion was coll­ec­ted, the percen­tage could even be higher. Studies on this topic work with esti­ma­tes of 18 to 25 percent. Inte­grierte Psych­ia­trie Winter­thur was invol­ved in setting up IKS toge­ther with the Social Paed­ia­tric Centre (SPZ) at the Canto­nal Hospi­tal Winterthur’s Depart­ment of Paed­ia­tric and Adole­s­cent Medi­cine. They foun­ded the ‘Family Psych­ia­try’ working group toge­ther in 2003. In 2006, the working group recor­ded the first figu­res in a survey about how many child­ren had mentally ill parents.

Anony­mous or personal

With its work, IKS also wants to reach out to young people and child­ren directly. On two evenings each week, young people can talk to advi­sors of the same age in a peer chat and share their expe­ri­en­ces. Cour­ses are also available where people of the same age can get to know each other and talk in person. IKS also offers advi­sory services, infor­ma­tio­nal mate­rial and educa­tio­nal cour­ses for parents, other respon­si­ble adults and health­care and social work profes­sio­nals. Further­more, it offers ever­yone the option of cont­ac­ting IKS anony­mously with their ques­ti­ons through an e‑advice service. IKS relies on a network of local, natio­nal and inter­na­tio­nal part­ners to keep impro­ving its services and promote its preven­tive work. The foun­da­tion works on projects and conducts rese­arch toge­ther with these part­ners. The aim of all the services is to make the barriers to access help as low as possi­ble, and enable those affec­ted to under­stand their own situa­tion. They can learn from their shared expe­ri­en­ces toge­ther with other affec­ted people who have been trai­ned in giving advice. The figure of 300,000 people affec­ted in Switz­er­land is proof of how rele­vant this topic is.

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