Being a Parent with Mental Illness

Being a parent can be tough at the best of times, some days it can feel like a constant battle. Having children can be emotionally, physically and financially draining. If a parent is also having to cope with mental health problems, then these issues are further amplified. But just because you have mental illness, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a good parent.

DID YOU KNOW ?………….

Estimates suggest that between 50% and 66% of parents with a severe and enduring mental illness live with one or more children under 18. That amounts to about 17,000 children and young people in the UK. (Figures provided by The Mental Health Foundation)

This webpage has been created to provide information and support to both parents battling mental illness and their children.

POSITIVE PARENTING

For parents struggling with long term or severe mental health issues, at some point the illness is likely to have a negative impact on their children.  There are positive steps that can be taken to minimize this impact, and promote healthy development.

  • Children are able to cope better if they have an understanding of their parents illness. By explaining what is happening, they know what to expect, and this reduces their anxiety and feelings that they are to blame.
  • Promote as much stability as possible in their home environment. Establish and maintain routines.
  • Promote positive self esteem in the child.
  • Encourage a strong relationship with a healthy adult ( family member, relative or family friend).
  • Encourage healthy activities (hobbies, sports, clubs) outside of the home.
  • Help and support for the child within the family.
  • Nurture a sense of the child being loved by the  parent with mental health issues.
  • Encourage friendships and positive relationships with peers.

These are all things that can be done within the family, but sometimes it is helpful to have extra support from outside agencies.  Services for families need to be family-centred, comprehensive and long-term in order to be effective. The services should address both the parental mental illness and the welfare of the child by encompassing social, financial, health and education services.

In the UK, there are a number of agencies you can turn to for support:

Family Action provide the Building Bridges service for families with an adult with mental health issues. For more information click on the link:

http://www.family-action.org.uk/section.aspx?id=780

Sure Start is a government organisation offering support to families with babies and young children (pre-school age). For more information click on the link:

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Preschooldevelopmentandlearning/NurseriesPlaygroupsReceptionClasses/DG_173054

As well as this, here at the Mental Health Forum we offer a place where you can talk to others about any problems you may be experiencing as a parent with mental health issues. The forum is non-judgemental, warm and caring and promotes a ‘safe environment’  where you can voice your concerns and share your experiences with other members.