Every year, 15,000 young people have a parent diagnosed with cancer and 1,000 young people have a sibling diagnosed with cancer. While survival rates are increasing, cancer remains the leading cause of death in Australia.
Research conducted by CanTeen reveals that 56% of young people (12-17 years) who have lost a parent to cancer display clinically elevated levels of stress, anxiety or depression, far exceeding the 15-20% in the general community.
It also reports that the terminal phase of a family member’s illness can be a period of even greater psychological stress than the period following the actual loss, and recommends the development of early intervention strategies to reduce the long-term negative impact.
Lizzie, whose Dad died when she was 18, says “I had a lot of trouble with my feelings. It was all about Dad at home. Everyone kept saying, ‘You’re 18, you’re an adult now’ … but I wish people treated me like the child I was. I wasn’t ready for everything I was faced with.”
As well as disruption to family functioning, increased household responsibilities and loss of contact with peers, young people have to deal with overwhelming feelings of uncertainty.
“When my brother was sick I was left in the dark,” says Emma, whose brother died when she was 13. “I didn’t understand what was happening all the time and I felt scared.”
In response to this need, CanTeen is launching two innovative books this week that provide support and information to young people aged 12-24; Now What…? When your parent’s cancer can’t be cured and Now What…? When your sibling’s cancer can’t be cured.
These free books are a first of their kind, and follow a young person’s journey from finding out that a parent or sibling’s cancer is terminal, through to the funeral and early bereavement.
End-of-life is a unique phase and these books provide age-appropriate information and advice to help a young person effectively work through anticipatory grief and adjust to the changes in their life.
The books are part of a package of services that also includes a website www.nowwhat.org.au and a free counselling service for young people who have a parent with cancer, or whose parent has died from cancer.
Now What…? books are FREE and can be ordered at www.nowwhat.org.au or by calling 1800 669 942.
More information about CanTeen’s Offspring Support Program counselling service is available by calling 1800 226 833 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org