With more than one in four people experiencing mental health problems at any one time, there’s a fair chance many parents are affected.
Bringing up children is demanding for anyone, but when your emotional well-being is at rock bottom, or you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, it can feel like an uphill battle.
Parents must put their children’s needs before their own; however, if you are not in a positive place yourself if can be difficult to give your child the encouragement and support they need.
When life gets you down
Feeling down from time to time is normal. Life has a habit of throwing difficulties at us and it is almost impossible to have a positive sense of well-being when you are facing major problems like:
People in good mental health generally have the resilience to resolve and cope with life’s problems and recover from illness, a change in circumstances or other misfortunes. The feelings of worry, distress and despair will usually pass as their situation improves.
If there is nothing else you can do, it’s worth taking steps to boost your emotional well-being so that your parenting abilities are not adversely affected.
Low mental well-being and mental health problems are linked; however, feeling low for a specific reason does not necessarily mean you have a medical health problem. Equally, being diagnosed with a mental health condition does not mean you cannot have periods of positive well-being.
Parents with mental health problems
While it’s natural to be concerned about the impact your mental health condition may have on your children, there is no reason you can’t be as good a parent as anyone else while managing a mental health problem.
Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. All parents face challenges, regardless of whether they have a mental health problem or not and, if you are receiving treatment, your condition should not affect your parenting abilities.
The important thing is that you can provide a safe and stable home for your child, where they feel loved and protected. If your child is old enough, explain your illness to them and tell them they are not to blame.
If you become unwell, be prepared to rely on others until you are better. If there is no-one who can step in, contact social services to ask for help.
Getting professional help
Sometimes it can help just to talk to someone – a friend or relative perhaps – but if your feelings of depression, anger, anxiety or stress won’t go away and are affecting your ability to look after your child, it’s time to seek professional support.
You can talk to your GP or, if you have young children, confide in your health visitor. They will offer advice and suggest where to find help.
MIND offers advice to parents with mental health problems.
Rethink Mental Illness has information about living with mental illness.
Parent Talk Cymru provides bilingual parenting support, including online articles and one-to-one chat.
Time to Change campaigns to change the way people think and act about mental health problems.
C.A.L.L. is a confidential helpline for mental health issues. Call: 0800 132 737.
Samaritans provides a safe place for people to talk. You don’t have to be suicidal. Call: 116 123 (24/7). Welsh language line: 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm daily).