New app to help Australian parents care for kids’ mental health

A new free app will help overcome the mental health challenges children can experience when their routine is broken or when staying away from their parents.

While I’m Away – launched by infant and child mental health organisation Emerging Minds – will limit disruptions to children’s care that can make them anxious, affect their ability to concentrate, impact their mood and make sleeping difficult.

The app enables parents to create unique profiles for each of their children, then assign a caregiver to each child, such as a grandparent, friend, babysitter or other family member.

While I'm away appWhile I’m Away then guides parents through a series of questions, capturing the most important information about their children for each profile, including key people, daily routines, interests and hobbies, and health and medical information.

Nominated caregivers can download the app to access the child’s information, view care plans and keep updated on changes to plans in real time. Parents can also email or print a PDF copy of the care plans to give to caregivers who don’t have access to a mobile device.

Director of Emerging Minds, Brad Morgan, says parents can use the app to limit the impact of extended separation from parents and reduce the potential for children to develop lasting fears and anxieties.

“It is common for children to experience mental health difficulties when they are separated from a parent or spend extended time with someone who isn’t their primary caregiver,” Mr Morgan said.

“However, these difficulties aren’t often recognised as mental health concerns. They can instead be misunderstood, interpreted as behavioural issues or dismissed as intentional actions. We often hear children labelled as ‘naughty’, ‘defiant’, or ‘a worrier’ when it’s actually separation from their parent that’s affecting their wellbeing.”

While I’m Away can be used by many parents including those who need to go into hospital, who travel for work or leisure, and parents whose children spend weekends with an ex-partner,” he said.

“It will allow parents to continue to support their child’s mental health and wellbeing even when separated for extended periods.

General Practitioner (GP) and children’s health expert, Dr Andrew Leech, welcomed the release of the app.

“The app is unique in that there is nothing currently available that enables parents to easily share valuable information about their child with other caregivers,” he said.

For two years father-of-three, John Clark, experienced suicidal thoughts while he suffered from severe depression and anxiety.

He says the While I’m Away app – which Emerging Minds invited him to help test during development – would have provided invaluable reassurance that his then four, six and eight-year-old children would have continued care if he had needed to be hospitalised.

“As a parent, your number one priority is your children, even when you’re unwell,” he said.

“You often feel helpless when you’re experiencing a mental illness … like you lose control of your life. But, you can’t make rational decisions when you’re unwell, you need someone to make them for you or have a plans in place if something happens.”

The While I’m Away app is available for free download now on the Apple app store or via Google Play.

Emerging Minds is dedicated to advancing the mental health and emotional wellbeing of Australian infants, children, adolescents and their families. The organisation leads the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health. Emerging Minds develops mental health policy, services, interventions, training, programs and resources in response to the needs of professionals, children and their families.

Our resources are freely available at Emerging Minds . The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.