Advice for parents with mental health issues

I’m a parent and I have mental health problems and/or a personality disorder. What can I do to help myself?

You may also be interested in our post on parents with mental health difficulties in the ‘Mythbusting’ section.

Most people would agree that there is not an adequate amount of help available to parents with mental health challenges or a diagnosis of or the difficulties associated with personality disorder. Many parents feel very isolated, and often frightened. With feelings of isolation and fear can often come a sense of hopelessness or disempowerment. However, as a parent struggling alone with mental health issues, there is a great deal that you can do to help yourself;

  • Try not to panic about the involvement of Children’s Services. As the rest of this website explains, their main aim is simply to support you in looking after your children.
  • If you have difficulty understanding or following what is happening, ask your social worker, solicitor or advocate to explain.
  • Find out what support is available in your area and for people with your difficulties or diagnosis. Your GP, advocacy services, mental health charities and internet searches can be a good starting point. Do not assume that your doctor or social worker has already referred you to everything available – you may have found something they don’t know about.
  • Do not underestimate the value of family networks, informal support or social media. Think about what your family and friends can do to help. Try and get involved in your local community, perhaps by volunteering at your child’s school or by joining a local gardening club, or simply by looking for friends online through Mumsnet or Twitter.
  • Look after your health. Smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs and too much coffee and chocolate are bad for both physical and mental health. Exercise and plenty of water and veg and fresh air and friendship are good.
  • Look after your finances. Many families and particularly parents with mental health issues and other disabilities are seeing their incomes fall and outgoing rise due to benefit cuts, inflation and the bedroom tax. Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service can provide excellent free advice. For those who are having trouble feeding their families, foodbanks can provide emergency parcels.
  • Learn to relax. Stress-management techniques can be beneficial to everyone, and people with mental health challenges have more stress factors than many. Mindfulness, self-hypnosis and other forms of relaxation can be learned from classes or from YouTube.
  • Enjoy your children. Certainly, parenting can be messy and stressful and tiring – but it can also be hugely fun and rewarding. Make time and save energy for trips to the park, finger paint and bedtime stories.
  • Stay positive. Trite and twee as it sounds, you have to believe that you will cope.