SANE Australia launched a new website – itsallright.org – to support the half a million Australian teenagers affected by mental illness in their family.
Executive Director of SANE Australia Barbara Hocking says, "This is often the untold story of mental illness – the impact on teenagers who have a brother, sister or parent with a mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar or an anxiety disorder.
"These teenagers are a high risk group – they’re not only managing the confusion and powerlessness of a family member’s mental illness but, without support, are also more likely to experience mental illness themselves. This can be a vicious circle that can be difficult to escape. Many may feel they are the only ones this is happening to and that they cannot ask for help."
itsallright.org aims to break this cycle by giving control back to teenagers through information and reassurance. The website centres on the stories of four teenagers, told through online diary entries, who have a family member with a mental illness. The website also provides factsheets and podcasts about mental illness and treatment, as well as an online helpline for teenagers to ask their own questions or seek support.
Ms Hocking says, "itsallright.org aims to help these teenagers regain control and feel less isolated. The website was built specifically for teenagers and has been designed to help them access the information they want, in a format they want."
A recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that one in five Australians had a mental disorder within a one-year period, leading SANE to estimate that half a million teenagers are managing the impact of the mental illness of a brother, sister or parent every year.
The impact on teenagers with mental illness in the family can be profound, often leaving them feeling distressed and isolated. They often experience confusion, loneliness, shame, embarrassment, or guilt. Their home life may be impacted by poverty, periods of homelessness or the hospitalisation for their relative.
(Source: SANE Australia: June 2009)