Researchers at Monash University have developed a six-week online intervention program to support young people aged 18 to 25 whose parents are struggling with mental illness or substance abuse. The mi.spot program (mental illness: supportive, preventative, online, targeted) gives them the coping mechanisms and strategies to take positive steps in their lives.

One in five young people in Australia grow up with a parent who has a mental illness or substance abuse problem. Research shows they can be affected by their parents’ mental illnesses, and that the effects can be profound and long term. Yet, most intervention programs focus on helping their parents, meaning young people remain at a greater risk of acquiring their own mental health concerns.

Before designing the program, the researchers at Monash University conducted a study to find out what young people with a parent with a mental illness wanted from an online intervention program.
The mi.spot program is being trialed with young at-risk adults in Victoria and, so far, one hundred participants have accessed it. Now the researchers, based at the Krongold Clinic at Monash University, hope to extend its reach to young people living in rural and remote areas across the country.

Participants create their anonymous profiles to access one-on-one counselling with a professional counsellor, interact with their peers in the online forum and participate in weekly facilitated sessions on topics like understanding mental illness, how a young adult’s mental health may be impacted by their parent’s mental illness, how to manage relationships, and when to seek help.

Andrea Reupert, associate professor and director of Professional Psychology Programs in Education at Krongold Clinic, led the trial. She told Grok that, so far, the trial has illustrated participants value the support of an anonymous professional, and that they are willing to talk to other young people going through similar circumstances.

She said it’s important for young people to have this support because they have their own specific needs and challenges that other younger and older age groups don’t face.

“They’re trying to work out who they are, they have their own identity and sexuality and so on,” Reupert said.

“Some of them are starting work or study for the first time. It’s a huge period for transition and we know for young people whose parents have mental health or substance abuse issues it can be particularly challenging because those families often pull them back and really need their help, and they’re involved in excessive caring [responsibilities].”

Reupert said participants also valued the freedom to seek help without needing permission from their parents.

Young people interested in accessing mi.spot are encouraged to send a quick email to mi.spot@monash.edu. All correspondence will remain confidential.