Parenting when you have a mental health condition

7min read

Everyone will have their own set of challenges and rewarding moments when it comes to being a parent or carer. If you are parenting while managing a mental health condition, it can be especially tough if you are not getting the right support. It’s important to ensure you are getting the right treatment in order to feel well and able to care for yourself, and your family. 

Key Points:

  • Ensure you ask for support from family, friends and your GP when you need it
  • Consider informing your child’s school if you feel it could benefit you and your child
  • Create a plan of action that both you and your child understand, should there be a crisis
  • Taking good care of yourself will enable you to take good care of your children

Understanding mental health

Everyday tasks can become incredibly tough if you are parenting with depression, with many people struggling unnecessarily. Depression can be very isolating, and it is often hard to think clearly and can become increasingly difficult without support. Getting support can make a significant difference to your depression and can have a positive effect on your family too.  If you are struggling, contact your GP for help and support. If you feel unable to do this, ask a friend or family member to make the first appointment and come with you.

Anxiety

If feelings of anxiety are becoming overwhelming or holding you back from family life, try to speak to your GP for support. Untreated anxiety can have an impact on the family, as well as making your own parenting experience especially stressful and unnecessarily hard. Many parents experience feelings of anxiety, if it has become too much to manage it’s important to seek help. 

Bipolar

If you have been diagnosed with bipolar it’s important to ensure you talk to your mental health team and family for support. There are many parents successfully managing their bipolar while raising families. It can help to talk through coping strategies with other parents, and to have a clear support network if you are finding things tough. 

Psychosis

Psychosis can be triggered by many different things, including trauma, physical illness and medication. Psychosis may include hallucinations, delusions, confused thinking and speech. It’s essential you get support from your GP if you are parenting with psychosis for ongoing support and treatment.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

If you have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), parenting may feel especially challenging at times. If you feel your OCD is becoming unmanageable or is causing you and your family distress and anxiety, it’s important to speak with a health professional for support. There are several effective treatments to support OCD, including medication, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and talking therapies.

Getting support

Many parents worry about looking after children while managing their own mental health condition. It is understandable that you might be concerned about how it will affect your family, but with the right support and treatment, family life can feel manageable and positive.

It is essential to have support around you and your children from family, friends and professionals. It can also help to share with your children places they can access information and support too, if you feel they might benefit from this. You can contact your child’s school so they can also act as a source of support for you and your child. 

Think about asking your GP or mental health team for information on any local support groups available to you and your family, and ensure you keep up to date with your medication and treatment plan if you have one. Consider asking your GP or mental health team if there is an advocate or mentor your child can access. If you feel your child is being affected by your mental health condition, it may also be helpful to ask your GP if there is any counselling or support available to them. 

For any parent experiencing a mental health disorder (listed above, or not) you may also want to take a look at Side by Side, an online community at Mind, offering non-judgemental peer group support for any mental health condition. Below is a list of online and local mental health support groups you might find useful to contact:

In a crisis

If you or your child feel at risk at any point it is important that you dial 999 and ask for help. It may be reassuring for your child if they know what to do in an emergency - perhaps you can write this down together. MIND has a helpful checklist that you can use. Other things to consider include:

  • Make a note of at least 2 adults you and your child both know and trust, who can be contacted in a crisis, keep their details somewhere you can both find them and ensure the contacts know
  • If there are patterns to your illness it can help to keep a diary of this to ensure you are aware of your symptoms
  • Ask a trusted friend or adult to check in regularly with your child, especially if you are feeling unwell or at risk
  • Consider creating an Advance Statement to ensure you have stated your healthcare choices should you become too unwell to make any decisions

Our supportive tips:

  • It’s important to remember that many parents with mental health conditions are fully capable of giving their child a safe loving home, with excellent care. As with any illness, it is essential you ask for support when you need it, in order to ensure both you and your family stay safe and well
  • Try to build a support network around you and your children, this may include friends, family, health professionals, teachers and support groups
  • Agree on a crisis plan of action that both you and your children understand
  • Remember that asking for help is a strength, it is vital you ask for help when you need it

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at askus@familylives.org.uk. You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting. 

Other organisations that can help

Support for children and young people

Childline provide a toolbox to help children understand parental mental health.

Young Minds provide help and support to children and young people.

Support for parents

MIND provide information and support on all aspects of mental health.

Rethink provide advice and information for those suffering severe mental illness and their families or carers.

Sane provide support via their mental health helpline.

Our Time have Information on parenting with a mental illness and how to have a conversation with children about it.

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