The Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing suggests one in seven children aged 4-17 experience mental illness. The draft National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy estimates one in five 10-11 year-olds have five or more risk factors for developing mental illness, and half of all adult mental illnesses developed before the age of 14.
Mr McCormack said the app was inspired by research from Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, which found two out of three parents were not confident they could recognise signs their child is experiencing mental health difficulties, and less than half believe they know where they could get help.
Raising Healthy Children’s research suggests parents typically turn first to friends for ideas and advice, followed by the internet including Google and social media, and then professionals.
Lynley Andrews, the founder of the 6000-strong The Cool Mums of Ryde District Facebook group in Sydney and an NDIS coordinator, said she would love to promote an evidence-based app, along with resources such as the Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue and local therapists.
As group administrator, she often had to intervene in discussions when she could see there was a potential mental health problem for either the parent or child and a need for professional advice.
“People come in thinking they know best and we need to be the bad teacher and say ‘no you don’t’,” Ms Andrews said.
“They say things like ‘you just need some crystals or to sage the house’ – using a sage stick to cleanse the aura of your house. I usually cut them down very quickly and remind them advice like that can lead people to suicide if they don’t get the help they need.”
Ms Andrews, who has four children, said social media was great for discussing more general parenting issues, sharing recommendations for services, and helping reduce social isolation.
Jo Borello from Keilor in Melbourne said she had tried the app as both a social worker and a mother of three children aged 7, 5 and 4.
“It’s going to be useful for parents to try and have conversations with kids about big feelings and understanding what’s going on for them in their world, while we’re going through this very strange time,” she said.
Ms Borello said some clients would be relying on the pictures and diagrams because it was yet to be translated into languages besides English.
Raisingchildren.net.au; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; Beyondblue.org.au
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.