Words by Smiley Team
During the lockdown, fitness coach Joe Wicks led free YouTube workouts, offering millions of people a way to cope with spending so much time indoors. Post-lockdown he’s teamed up with the UK’s only charity supporting children of parents with mental illness, Our Time, to promote good wellbeing.
In a new BBC documentary, the fitness star revisits his own childhood, exploring how his parents’ mental illnesses affected him growing up. Entitled Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood, the documentary draws on his experiences to reflect upon how children, in general, can be similarly impacted.
“When you’re a kid all you want is for your mum and dad to be happy. So when they’re not, it’s really hard to deal with that,” Joe says in the trailer.
The documentary will be shown on BBC One, on 16 May. In it, Joe opens up about his mum’s OCD, eating disorders and anxiety, as well as his dad’s heroin addiction and depression.
He aims to comprehend how his family’s illnesses influenced him as a child and learn how we can better support children and families dealing with similar problems today.
Since starting his video workouts, the 37-year-old received many thousands of letters and messages from worried parents, sharing concerns with him about how their children were affected by their own mental health.
Their messages are reflected by national statistics. One in four adults has experienced a mental health issue, and pre-pandemic there were already 3.7 million children with a parent with a mental health condition, according to NHS data. Research since then suggests this number will have only risen.
Without support, children in this situation are more likely to develop mental health conditions themselves. Despite this, there remains a chronic shortage of support for them.
To fill this gap, Our Time has worked with thousands of children and young people over the last decade. They collaborate with educators, health professionals and community workshop leaders to support and build resilience in young people while conducting research into further solutions.
Our Time runs 'KidsTime' workshops – they give families where there is poor parental mental health a safe and supportive environment. "Young people can express themselves, without feeling exposed or judged," they say. "Often, this is the first time they’ve spoken about their parent’s difficulties, but there is no stigma or shame here. At the workshops, these children find strength, hope, encouragement and a friendly community where they can have fun."
KidsTime Workshops take place once a month, after school, in a family-friendly community setting.
DONATE: If you want to help more young people overcome childhood struggles, donate to Our Time.
VOLUNTEER: Donate your time and skills to the work of Our Time – you can find out what opportunities there are.