6.11 Mental Ill Health of a Parent of Carer


Mental Ill health Crisis Care Concordat: Improving outcomes for people experiencing mental health crisis


This chapter was updated in June 2014 by adding a link to: HM Government, Mental Ill health Crisis Care Concordat: Improving outcomes for people experiencing mental health crisis.
1. Mental illness in a parent or carer does not necessarily have an adverse impact on a child, but it is essential always to assess its implications for any children involved in the family;

Parental mental illness can have an impact on children in a number of ways including:

  • Restriction of social and recreational activities for children;
  • Children taking caring responsibilities for adults or other children inappropriate to their age;
  • Neglect of a child's physical or emotional needs;
  • Forms of mental illness may blunt parents' emotions and feelings, or cause them to behave towards their children in bizarre or violent ways; in extreme circumstances this may place a child at risk of severe injury, profound neglect, or even death;
  • Post natal depression can be linked to behavioural and physiological problems in the infants of such mothers;
  • Where the parent has to be hospitalised, children can find this difficult to understand why it has happened, have difficulty coping with separation and older children may feel the stigma of their parent being a patient on an acute Mental Health ward.
3. The adverse effects on children of parental mental illness are less likely when the illness is mild, lasts only a short time, is not associated with family disharmony, and does not result in the family breaking up;
4. Children may also be protected when the other parent or another family member can respond to the child's needs;
5. Children most at risk of abuse or neglect where mental illness of a parent or carer is a feature of family life are those who feature within parental delusions, those who become targets for parental aggression or rejection, and those who are neglected as result of parental mental illness;
6. Although there are no specific procedures for working with children who are suffering or are likely to suffer Significant Harm where the mental ill health of a parent or carer is a feature of family life, it is important that all professionals and agencies involved co-operate as closely as possible with communication between agencies paramount in ensuring the safety of both children and parents alike. Identifying and communicating at an early stage any concerns any professionals have regarding the impact on the child of the parent's Mental Health will ensure appropriate support is provided at a very early stage thus minimising the impact, if any, on the child;
7. Some professionals involved with such families will be working primarily with an adult member of the family. However, they should not lose sight of their joint responsibility to safeguard the interests of any child in the family, and any such professional should be invited to and take part in discussions, meetings and conferences concerning the welfare or protection of the child, as arranged. Attendance at safeguarding training for such staff above should be made available;
8. Those professionals involved in treating or providing a service to adults with mental ill health who are also parents, should consider the need to complete an assessment using the Early Help Assessment and referring the child to Children's Social Care if there are any concerns about the care or welfare of the child - see Part 4 of this manual - Knowsley MASH (Multi-Agency Referral Form). This may include a child who is a Child in Need, a child who is vulnerable or a child who is at risk of suffering Significant Harm.