- One in five (20%) parents said they are currently experiencing poor mental health
- Almost one quarter (23%) reported feeling anxious most of the time, one in five (19%) feel overwhelmed most of the time, one in ten (9%) feel depressed most of the time and one third (31%) feel burned out/exhausted most of the time
- 48% of parents who experienced poor mental health said it had a moderately negative impact on their children and worryingly more than one in ten (12%) said it had a considerable negative impact on their children
- Findings based on nationally representative survey conducted by Amarach Research of over 300 parents, and 15 one to one interviews with parents
Barnardos children’s charity today launched a new report outlining the prevalence of poor parental mental health and the impact it has on children across the country.
‘Anxiety leaves me feeling very tired physically and mentally which in turn affects my mood and again my tolerance for my children’s perfectly normal behaviours. I find myself snapping at them.’
Survey findings show that:
- Two-thirds (66%) of parents said that at some point they had poor mental health and wellbeing with one in five (20%) parents said they currently had poor mental health.
- Almost one quarter (23%) reported feeling anxious most of the time, one in five (19%) overwhelmed most of the time, one in ten (9%) depressed most of the time and one third (31%) burned out/exhausted most of the time
- Over one in ten (12%) of parents who completed the survey who said they had poor mental health said it had a significant impact on their parenting, over half (48%) said it had a moderate impact
‘Tiredness takes over – therefore I do not have the energy to make sure I cook a good meal or spend quality time with my children.’
‘I had no energy, no motivation, no desire to look to the future. It takes over your mind, like a nasty weed growing and smothering all good thoughts.’
Parents acknowledged that mental health issues could affect their ability to parent as effectively and as positively as they would like. It could lead to them to struggle with day to day parenting tasks (18%); reduce their motivation whilst increasing negativity; limit patience and tolerance (26%); and cause emotional detachment from children (36%).
‘Inability to attend fully or listen to my children, felt like I couldn’t be present…often spent time in bed complaining of “headache” to avoid interactions.’
The report highlights that poor parental mental health can be detrimental to children’s health and wellbeing
- 48% of parents who experienced poor mental health said it had a moderate negative impact on their children and worryingly more than one in ten (12%) said considerable
- 46% of parents said it affected their children emotionally and mentally, leading to issues around low mood and increasing anxiety
- One-third (33%) said it affected family dynamics, strained family relationships and increased conflict within the home
Parents Barnardos spoke to said their mental health issues could lead children to: develop difficulties regulating emotions; struggle with routines; become more insecure and/or withdrawn; begin attention-seeking behaviour.
The report’s findings demonstrate a substantial number of parents in Ireland are experiencing mental health issues, a significant proportion of whom will have had their parenting impaired as a result. Without support, this jeopardises the quality of thousands of childhoods across the country, as well as future adulthoods, particularly those families facing numerous adversities and disadvantages. Support must be available immediately for these children and their families to mitigate and reduce the potential harm and negative impacts because childhood lasts a lifetime.
Barnardos is calling on the government to:
- Develop a campaign raising the awareness of the impact of parental mental health on children, whilst seeking to address any stigma associated with it
- Increase funding for targeted intensive family supports for parents facing mental health issues
- Record the parenting status of all adults engaged with mental health services and automatically offer a referral to local family/parenting support services to all parents with children under 18 who are engaging with adult mental health services
Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly: ‘Approximately 30% of families we are supporting have issues around parental mental health, making it one of the main issues families we support currently face. As a society, we have made considerable progress in making children and young people feel ok and comfortable talking about their mental health. We now need to make similar progress in normalising and helping parents to feel comfortable discussing and talking about mental health in the context of being a parent. From the results of our survey the issue of parental mental health issues is more prevalent than we anticipated, and is certainly not matched by the level of support currently available. It is important that the stigma and the lack of public awareness associated with parental mental health is addressed, however we must also ensure that parents and their families get the support that they need. It is clear from discussions with parents the desire for easily accessible family support. Because childhood lasts a lifetime.’
Barnardos CEO, National Policy Manager and frontline worker
Parental Mental Health Report here
Executive Summary here
Notes to Editor: