Let’s talk about mental health in working parents

In the UK, mental health issues are responsible for 91 million working days lost. 

This is just one of the shocking facts I learnt in the Mental Health First Aid course I did last week.  I also realised that it’s still incredibly difficult for people to talk about their mental health at work – and that includes working parents – whether recent returners from leave to those managing older children, school runs and increased responsibility at work.

The Modern Families Index 2018, published last week by Working Families and Bright Horizons, reveals the stress of the modern workplace is pushing parents to breaking point.

Potential mental health disorders that parents (and organisations) need to be particularly mindful of are:

Post-natal depression (PND)

Affecting both men and women, this is a common condition, which requires treatment and support, especially if it goes on for longer than 2 weeks.  Sleep deprivation, enormous changes to both lifestyle and sense of self, as well as lack of support network that can come hand-in-hand with early-parenthood can make the situation worse.

Post-Partum Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

This occurs in approximately 9% of women, following a particularly traumatic and difficult birth and/or subsequent health condition.  Some parents feel OK for months and then suddenly find they are affected later on, possibly because another stressful event triggered a response.  See more help and information here.

Clinical depression

A clinical depression is one which lasts for at least 2 weeks and affects a person physically, as well as affecting their behaviour, emotions and thinking. The added stress of providing financially for your family can make us feel trapped in jobs that sometimes make us feel unhappy.  Being a working parent also means you have much less time to devote to your own health and wellbeing; and if your organisation or managers are not supportive of wellbeing and flexibility, it will make the situation worse.

What can we do?

  • Be self-aware – monitoring your mental health needs to be done as carefully as monitoring your physical health. Regularly check in with yourself – ‘how am I feeling about this?; what do I need right now to help me re-energise’?
  • Talk to others. It’s a well-known fact that more men suffer from depression and that suicide rates are higher in men than in women – and one contributing factor is that men are less likely to talk about how they feel and seek help and support.  It is a strength if you are able to do this, not a sign of weakness
  • Seek professional help and support through your Employee Assistance Programme or your GP
  • MIND has a comprehensive section on their website around parenting with mental health concerns

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