The SMILES program – information and program downloads (revised July 2022)

‘Simplifying Mental Illness + Life Enhancement Skills’

A program for children and young people who have a mum, dad or sibling experiencing a mental illness or mental health problem

Program information

The SMILES program has been designed specifically for a group of 8-12 year olds, or a group of 13-16 year olds who have a mother, father, brother or sister experiencing a mental illness (particularly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety).

The program is designed to achieve:

  • Increased ability to cope effectively
  • A new freedom for self-expression
  • Development of creativity
  • Reduction in feelings of isolation
  • Increased self esteem
  • and much more!

This is achieved through:

  • Education about mental illness
  • Art work and music
  • Peer support
  • Interactive and communication exercises
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Problem-solving activities

This all takes place in a fun-filled, supportive and caring atmosphere.

Features of the SMILES program:

  • Three-day program, best suited to a school holiday period.
  • Requires minimum 8, maximum 10 young people. Age range 8-12years or 13-16years.
  • Designed as a train-the-trainer program to be delivered in partnership with local mental health, child and family services, ensuring ongoing delivery of the program.
  • Able to be delivered internationally.
  • Internationally recognised as a best practice method by the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (Accepted Apr 2003, published Jul 2004).

Program evaluations can be viewed here.

Professionals: Download program resources

Erica Pitman, the author of the SMILES Program* (Simplifying Mental Illness + Life Enhancement Skills), has generously provided the following downloadable resources to assist others to implement the program in their local area.

Erica writes: “I recommend that the program be delivered as it has been designed, over three consecutive days, using the suggested daily plan. This has proved to be a very effective format (see program evaluation contained in the information & guidelines section). The life skills activities are appropriate for use in individual counselling sessions, may be adapted for use with other populations and have all been used successfully with adults as well as children.”

When delivering a SMILES Program (or similar) it will be the responsibility of the facilitating team and sponsoring organisation to ensure that:

  • current child protection policies/legislation and reporting requirements are adhered to
  • adequate insurance cover is taken (e.g. workers compensation, professional indemnity, professional liability)
  • adequate program and clinical supervision processes are implemented.

Should you use any part of the program in any form or by any means please acknowledge the author, Erica Pitman, in full.

Program resources (revised July 2022)

*Please read ‘Section one: Introduction, information and guidelines’ below before using any of the material

>Download Introduction to SMILES & Longitudinal Follow-up

Section one: Introduction, information and guidelines

>Download zip of Section 1 slides here 

Section two: Activities

>Download zip of Section 2 slides here

Section three: Forms

Note: Each form is saved as a ‘protected document’. To make changes ‘unprotect’ the document. Refer to Information & Guidelines section for further details.

>Download zip of Section 3 slides here 

Section four: Handouts

>Download zip of Section 4 slides here

Additional download: When your parent has a mental illness booklet

Section five: Appendices

>Download zip of Section 5 slides here 

Further information

If you have any enquiries about this program please contact Erica Pitman via

The SMILES Program materials listed on this website have been provided by Erica Pitman. While every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in the SMILES Program & Manual (electronic or otherwise) is as up to date and accurate as possible, it is intended as a guide only. Erica Pitman or AICAFMHA cannot be held responsible for any damage, action taken, or loss arising out of the contents of this program or manual. The resource materials have not been evaluated by the COPMI Project or AICAFMHA. The inclusion of a resource material is in no way to be taken as an endorsement or recommendation of that product. The COPMI national initiative and parent body AICAFMHA take no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided. Views and recommendations expressed in these resource materials are not necessarily the views and recommendations of the COPMI national initiative or AICAFMHA.