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.