Mental health affects the whole family


Any parent or guardian will tell you that they are only at their best when their children are doing well. When their children struggle, they struggle. They’re worrying. They lose sleep. They would do anything to help their child. Often this includes taking time off work to support their child. This could range from using PTO or sick leave to manage doctor and therapist appointments, to being required to take time off, to being required to quit their job. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that youth mental health affects the whole family.

Recently, a group of pediatric care providers declared a national mental health emergency in children, adolescents and young adults (American Academy of Pediatrics). Prior to 2020, there had been a decade-long steady increase in depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, with suicide becoming the second leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds by 2018. But since the COVID pandemic, rates of all kinds of mental health problems have increased among young people. Recent survey data has found that more than 68 percent of teens report clinically significant anxiety and more than 52 percent report clinically significant depression. And while anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies remain among the most common mental health issues among young people, many also struggle with ADHD, OCD, trauma, loneliness, grief and stress. .

Source: Amy Mezulis

While the person with the mental health issue is most directly affected, research also shows that the mental health and well-being of parents is strongly affected by their children’s mental health issues.

Psychologist Adrian Angold observed that children’s mental health imposes both an objective burden and a subjective burden on parents and caregivers.

Objective burden includes the quantifiable costs associated with caring for a child with mental health problems. This may include the actual cost of care, that is, paying for assessments, drugs, therapy, or other treatments. It can also include the indirect costs of care – time spent making appointments and driving to get to appointments, time off to provide care and even missed work days or reduced workloads. to meet the needs of care. Over 60% of parents of youth with mental health issues report that providing care for their children’s mental health needs negatively impacts their work schedules and / or availability (Brennan et al. 2007) . Another national study found that caregivers of youth with mental health problems end up spending less time in the workforce (Brennan & Brannon, 2005).

Subjective burden understands the less obvious but no less powerful emotional effects of children’s mental health issues on the well-being of parents / guardians. Mothers of pre-teens and depressed teens report significantly higher parental stress than parents of non-depressed teens (Tan & Rey, 2005). Another study found that parents of youth with mental health needs report greater pressure on care, which directly predicts downtime from work, showing a link between subjective and objective burden.

However, there is good news. Data also shows that treating youth mental health issues improves the well-being of all family members. In a longitudinal study of depression in adolescents, researchers found that as treatment progressed and adolescents felt better, their parents’ symptoms of depression also improved (Wilkinson et al., 2013) .

How can you support your own well-being while parenting a child with mental health issues?

  1. Find out about your company’s employee assistance program. Many companies offer mental health support to employees and / or their dependents, regardless of your health plan coverage.
  2. Online parent forums can be a significant source of community support.
  3. Consider teletherapy for your adolescent / young adult. Teletherapy offers more practical and accessible care at home.

COVID has revealed how important the health and well-being of children is to the overall functioning of the family. When children are well, parents can sleep and work more easily, efficiently and in general well-being.

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