VIA Family – an integrated intervention for families where one of the parents are suffering from a severe mental illness
Children born to parents suffering from severe mental illness (SMI) e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression is an overlooked group in mental health services, although they have a increased risk for developing SMI themselves. Familiar high risk studies have provided important knowledge about risk factors and early development of mental illness. Early intervention programs have grown for first episode psychosis and clinical high risk populations. However, only very few cities in the world offer a specialized early intervention to children living in families with SMI. During childhood these children show delayed development, cognitive dysfunction, poor mental health and they experience early signs of psychiatric symptoms and emotional vulnerability. Some are in high risk for being removed from home and placed in foster care/institution. In spite of this, no specialized, evidence-based interventions are offered in Denmark for these children and their families. Today the treatment, if any, is coincidental and lack coherence, evidence and longtime planning.
Cross sectional intervention
We will provide a specific, cross sectional, coordinated, flexible and need-based intervention – called VIA Family. The intervention will be made in close collaboration between the municipality, institutions, and adult and child psychiatric services. An array of treatment elements will be provided: psycho education, network groups, parental training (Triple P), cognitive remediation, treatment optimization, counselling, contact with institutions etc. This intervention will bridge the gap between municipality and psychiatry and ensure a more holistic and congruent support for families with complex needs and problems. The aim is to ameliorate the children’s mental health, to lower the actual burden of the family and prevent placement out of home while investigating if an early intervention can prevent development of SMI. The vision to minimize the impact of familiar based SMI, both at the actual time point and in a long term perspective by making sectors collaborate in an evidence-based and well defined way.
Early detection and intervention
The long-term perspective is to prevent development of SMIs among offspring of parents with SMI and to ensure a healthy and normal development in terms of stimulation, activities, school, education and work possibilities. This is aligned with the national research strategy (March 15) in terms of both early detection and intervention, equitability, interdisciplinarity and coordination.