Hidden health crisis – Children’s cancer needs more than medicine
Redkite’s latest report, The Hidden Health Crisis – Children’s Cancer Needs More Than Medicine, has uncovered critical gaps in support for an estimated 2,600 paediatric cancer families. This equates to 10,000 diagnosed children, their parents and carers, and their siblings missing out on the emotional and mental health support they need to cope with the complex trauma of childhood cancer.
This ‘hidden health crisis’ in childhood cancer is across the entire cancer experience, from diagnosis and treatment, completion of treatment, palliative care and bereavement.
The report is based on a national survey of over 700 parents and carers of children with cancer and shows:
- Nearly two thirds (61%) of brothers and sisters of children with cancer have unmet mental health needs at the time of the diagnosis. Alarmingly, this is higher than the child with the diagnosis (51%).
- More than two thirds of children (69%) diagnosed with cancer have ongoing unmet emotional and mental health needs once their treatment was completed.
- More than 80% of families living in regional or remote areas are struggling to find support to cope with the fear of their child’s relapse.
- More than 1,000 bereaved families are missing out on the support they need to live with their grief and loss.
- More than half of parents reported they were missing out on connection with other parents and families, regardless of where they were in their experience with childhood cancer.
Tim Rogers, Redkite’s Head of Professional Standards and Practice said it was clear there were significant gaps in supporting these families that urgently need to be addressed.
“Cancer is a complex trauma impacting every family member – the needs go far beyond the child and the hospital walls. The damage it can inflict on the whole family’s wellbeing is lifelong, no family member is left unscathed.
While understandably considerable focus is on the medical treatment, providing psychosocial care to support families with the pressures of relationships, disconnection and isolation is critically important for everyone’s wellbeing.”Tim Rogers, Head of Professional Standards and Practice, Redkite
For nearly 40 years, Redkite has provided essential care to families affected by childhood cancer, stepping in to bridge the gap where support from the public healthcare system ends. The team provide critical emotional and mental health support, financial assistance, and information and resources to help families throughout the long and traumatic cancer experience.
Redkite CEO Monique Keighery said Redkite was a lifeline for families facing childhood cancer.
“We address the broader, more complex needs which are unseen and often unacknowledged. We are there for families whenever and wherever they need us.
We do a lot, but there is a limit to how far we can take this and today we are seeking urgent support to address the alarming mental health and emotional challenges every family member is facing.”Monique Keighery, Redkite CEO
Coles Group Chief Executive Officer, Steven Cain said Coles was extremely proud of its long-term partnership with Redkite, enabling the leading children’s cancer support organisation to be there for families through one of the most stressful times of their lives.
“Coles is extremely proud to be supporting such a critical area of need, particularly in these extremely challenging times. Since our partnership began eight years ago, our team members and customers have helped families affected by childhood cancer more than 208,000 times, enabling 81 per cent more families to have their urgent needs met during their child’s health crisis.”
Redkite is seeking support for important new measures to ensure more families receive the holistic support they need – when they need it. The focus will be on:
- Family Wellbeing & Transition: Through a dedicated team within all paediatric oncology wards that will help families while in hospital but particularly preparing them to transition home.
- Community Based Wellbeing: A program in the community with specialised support tailored for children (diagnosed and siblings) and also Indigenous and culturally/linguistically diverse families.
- Peer Support: An initiative to connect families and empower them to support each other, expanding current facilitated groups, one-on-one peer support and the lived-experience mentor program.