New survey by youth mental health charity
Nine in 10 parents in Scotland say the pandemic has left them feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope, and lacking balance in their life.
Major factors are the effect of lockdowns and fears of more, the pressures of home schooling, fear over becoming ill, work pressures and financial difficulties.
New survey data, published today by youth mental health charity stem4 and marking Parent Mental Health Day (27 January), finds that most parents and carers have little or no time to take care of their own mental health needs, leaving four in ten in mental health distress.
Of the 1,000 parents and carers surveyed, all with at least one child aged between 0 and 18 living in the home, four in 10 (45%) now say they are experiencing mental health difficulties, compared just under three in ten at the start of the pandemic.
Yet only one in five (21%) are able to access treatment they need.
These difficulties include anxiety (70%), depression (59%), and stress (51%). Some 17% of parents say they are burned out and in a constant state of physical and emotional exhaustion.
Of the four in ten parents currently experiencing mental health difficulties, 45% say they have not asked for help, either because they feel ashamed (54%), they don’t want to make a fuss (42%), they don’t want to upset their family (13%) or have their family think less of them (29%), or they fear that help won’t be available (17%).
Meanwhile, of the 55% who have asked for help, just one in five (21%) are receiving treatment. When asked whom they had approached, 34% had contacted their GP, 45% NHS mental health services, and 31% their employer. 11% paid privately to see a therapist or counsellor.
Three-quarters (72%) of parents and carers with pre-existing mental health difficulties say the pandemic has made their mental health worse. One in four (26%) directly attribute this to a lack of access to mental health treatment, while other factors include isolation (22%), relationship difficulties (23%), becoming unwell with Covid-19 (18%), changes to work structures (21%), and the prioritisation of the mental health needs of other family members (18%).
Dr Nihara Krause, consultant clinical psychologist and founder of stem4, said: “It’s highly worrying that four in ten parents and carers say they are experiencing mental health difficulties, with only a quarter willing or able to access treatment.
“GPs are often the first port of call for parents in mental health distress, but service resources are being both significantly stretched and reduced, and the criteria for acceptance to mental health services are dauntingly high.
“The consequence is that few parents are getting the help they need. Meanwhile, children’s and young people’s mental health problems are at an all-time high, with these services stretched to breaking point and very few able to access early interventions.
“Parents are not only struggling to balance all of theirresponsibilities but are also having to be the supporter of their child’s or young person’s mental health, and that can be especially hard if their own mental health is compromised.”
Stem4’s Parent Mental Health Day encourages understanding and awareness of the importance of parents’ mental health and its impact on the whole family system.
With this year’s theme being balance, the day aims to get parents and carers to take a moment to reflect on the balance they have in their lives and to take positive steps to make change.