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Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW







Funding Dates

May 2010 - June 2012

The issue

It is called the hidden face of mental illness. While more than 2.5 million Australians care for someone with a mental illness, what is not widely known is that some of those are children caring for their parents.

In Australia, it is estimated that 23 per cent of children have a parent with mental illness. Some of these young people take on a carer's role, but are often not identified by traditional health services. Despite the high risk of carers themselves developing mental illness, the health of carers is often an afterthought.

The project

The Schizophrenia Fellowship's award-winning ON FIRE! program is designed to meet the needs of young people whose parents or siblings are experiencing mental health issues.

ON FIRE! supports these young people by cultivating hope, resilience and wellbeing through the provision of opportunities for fun and friendship, strengthening life skills and  providing support, education and mentoring  to help them better cope with their difficult family circumstances.

ON FIRE! was established by a small group of volunteers in south-eastern Sydney who recognised the need to provide support for young people whose families are affected by mental illness.

A National Grant from nib foundation in 2010 enabled Schizophrenia Fellowship to formalise this grassroots program and extend its reach to the Hunter Region, Western Sydney and Wagga Wagga.

The impact

During 2011 and 2012, the program assisted more than 100 young carers aged 8 to 18 years, helping to reduce their sense of isolation and promote resilience and wellbeing.

An evaluation of the program conducted by the University of Sydney confirmed the program's success with more than 80 per cent of participants reporting a reduction in their problems. It also showed a reduction in the emotional difficulties experienced and an increase in positive connections outside of their family.

In 2012, the program's future was cemented with the Federal Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs announcing funding of $330,000 per annum to continue the ON FIRE! program.


"I feel a lot braver and stronger in myself. When mum was sick I didn't really know what to do. I felt like I couldn't do anything. I felt helpless but now I feel really strong and I can cope and I can help."

  • Male participant, 13 years old

"It's really helpful and I think we appreciate it a lot because our home lives can be tough and when we come here we can express our feelings and we can say it in such a way where people actually understand."

  • Female participant, 14 years old
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