Parental Mental Health

To be used by practitioners to aid reflective thinking.

For the purposes of this tool the term ‘parental mental health’ includes parents who have under the terms of the National Service Framework for Mental Health, common mental health problems like depression, as well as more severe and enduring disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar illness and personality disorder.


When would you use it?

Parental mental health does not necessarily adversely impact children’s development but needs to be taken into account when working with families.  It can and often does affect the capacity of parents to parent, even if there are times when they manage this well and there is often an impact on the resulting parent – child relationship.  Caring for children affects the mental health of the parent.  The child’s changing needs and development have an impact on the parent and how effective they are able to meet these needs at different times.


How would you use it?

There are a number of things to think about when considering the impact of parental mental health.  The following guidelines can be used to help aid your thinking, be reflective and gain a picture of parental mental health and potential impact on risk to children and young people.

The following questions are to assist in your thinking process rather than being asked directly. Use them to inform your own understanding and responses.

  • Does the parent / carer or family experience socio-economic disadvantage such as social isolation and poverty? If yes how does this impact on the child?
  • Are there other ways in which the parent or child is marginalised or discriminated against and how does this affect other concerns?
  • Does the child have access to significant others whose mental health is less compromised?
  • How old was the child when the parent’s mental health difficulty arose?
  • What was the quality of parenting like before the difficulties arose?
  • Does the child’s age and stage of development affect the parent in any way?
  • How resilient/vulnerable is the child?
  • What is available/accessible/taken up by the child from the wider family and network?
  • Is there another parent or significant person within the household who does not have mental health needs?
  • What are the symptoms and nature of the mental health/illness, including how severe they are and how long they have occurred?
  • How does the child experience or become involved in the parent’s symptoms and behaviour?
  • What is the treatment (particularly medication) and its effect on capacity to parent?
  • Is there any evidence that the parent has additional difficulties (dual diagnosis) such as substance misuse or learning difficulty?
  • Is the parent’s social and psychological functioning affected in anyway, and if so how does this impact on the child?
  • Have separations or changes of carer, or inconsistency from the carer, arisen as a result of the parent’s mental health difficulty?

A copy of this Tool is available on request