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Mental Health For Parents

mental health for parents

Many parents with mental health problems are concerned about the effects their condition may have upon their children and also about how to better cope with the stresses that being responsible for one’s children’s care inevitably entails (even for parents who are mentally well, of course!).

In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that approximately sixty percent of adults suffering from a serious and chronic mental health problem (such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) have children. And many more people with less serious mental health issues also have children, of course. Then, on top of this, many individuals addicted to alcohol or drugs are responsible for bringing up children, as well.

If a parent has a mental health problem, s/he can find that it interferes with his/her ability to be an effective parent, especially if s/he also has to hold down a job and/or has a poor relationship with his/her partner or is a single parent.

We know from the extensive research that has been conducted in this area that children who grow up with a parent who is suffering from significant and enduring mental heath issues are more likely than other children (all else being equal) to have psychological, emotional and/or behavioral difficulties (this, in turn, can make parenting harder still, thus leading to a vicious cycle).

The reasons why children living with parents with mental health problems are more likely themselves to develop problems (as referred to above) may include:

– the genes they have inherited from their mentally ill parent

– the unstable/stressful / chaotic environment in which they are being brought up

– a combination of the above two factors (genes and environment always interact)

– growing up in poverty (parents with mental health problems are more likely to be living in poverty than are mentally healthy parents).


What Factors Help Children Of Mentally Ill Parents To Develop Resilience?

Different children will, of course, be affected by the mental health problems of their parents in different ways. Factors which can make these children less likely to be significantly damaged by their parent’s mental illness include the following:

– counselling and support involving the whole family / family therapy

– consistent parenting

– having another parent or primary care-giver who is not mentally ill and who spends significant time giving the child emotional/psychological support

– having supportive and loyal friends whom one can trust and confide in

– having supportive teachers

– having a supportive school counsellor

– having supportive and emotionally available relatives

– being part of a young carers group

– having an ‘out of home’ hobby/activity which provides a sense of safety and stability (eg a scout group / boarding school)




David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)



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