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CanTeen Counselling Service


Australia Wide



Funding Dates

August 2010 - December 2015

The issue

Every year around 23,000 young people (aged 12-24) are confronted with a cancer diagnosis - whether it is their own or that of a parent, brother or sister. For these young people, life becomes overwhelmingly complicated and the risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, stress and anxiety is increased.

With 75% of mental illness beginning before 25 years of age, coupled with the fact that this age group is less likely to seek professional help for mental health problems, it is important for young people to have the capacity to manage adversity and increase their opportunities for accessing professional help.

CanTeen's expertise in helping young people cope with the physical, emotional and practical impact of living with cancer makes it well placed to deliver a program designed to specifically meet the needs of these young people.

The project

In 2010, nib foundation partnered with CanTeen to provide a range of targeted, age-specific services to support young people aged 12-24 years affected by parental cancer.

nib foundation's initial funding helped to develop, deliver and evaluate the CanTeen Counselling Service pilot program over three years in Newcastle, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. The establishment of this service provided an opportunity for CanTeen to offer intensive psychosocial support to young people on an ongoing basis, which previously it did not have the capacity to do.

Designed to improve the wellbeing, resilience and coping mechanisms of these young people, the program's specialised face-to-face, telephone and online counselling services have already helped hundreds of young people navigate a tough period in their lives, while camps and workshops have provided practical skills development, respite and peer support.

More than 20,000 copies of CanTeen's unique information resource, 'Now What?', have been delivered across Australia as part of the program. The series of books provide a practical guide on how to deal with a range of issues including day-to-day tasks such as cooking and how to talk to others about what is happening.

Following the success of the pilot program, we were delighted to announce in December 2013 our continued support for an additional two years to enable the program to continue in the Eastern states as well as to expand to Western Australia. From 2014, the program will also be made available to young cancer patients, as well as offspring and siblings.

The impact

More than 2,500 counselling sessions have been provided to young people affected by parental cancer over the course of the pilot of CanTeen's Counselling Service. The service has offered essential support to young people who need it most, with 84% of participants in the program evaluation exhibiting high or very high levels of psychological distress compared with only 9% in the general population.

The evaluation of CanTeen's Counselling Service shows a clear impact on decreasing levels of psychological distress in young people who have accessed the service. In particular, participants reported feeling less nervous, sad, restless and hopeless than when they started attending counselling. There have been significant improvements in young people's ability to cope with their cancer experience, particularly in relation to positive reframing, acceptance and emotional support and planning.

In addition, 96% of participants agreed the counselling service helped them deal with their situation, with 84% stating that they would access the counselling service again if they needed help.


"After my dad passed away my whole world was turned inside out. As much as my friends were there to support me there is some stuff you just can't explain. You need a safe environment in which you can say everything on your mind. The CanTeen Counselling Service is helping me through one of the toughest journeys in my life and I honestly don't know where I'd be without it."

21 Year Old participant

"My anxiety attacks waned after my first few sessions. I was surprised at how much of a difference it made simply telling someone else your troubles. While life still throws its hurdles, the Counselling Service has definitely helped get me through, and reassured me that I'm not alone."

24 Year Old participant

More Info: or check out this video of the CanTeen Counselling Service

"It has been very helpful. It has allowed me to confront and deal with the possibility of my Mum's death and has made me be more proactive with time."

Bereaved Offspring