Families need support dealing with mental health difficulties

BARDARDOS works with thousands of children and families across the country, including a number in Sout-West Dublin.

Many of the families the charity work with experience mental health difficulties. Several are also trying to cope with multiple other issues such as poverty, addiction, housing difficulties etc.

Barnardos often hear parents expressing concern that mental health services often fail to take into account their wider situation, particularly the fact they are parents and the impact not only their illness but also their treatment has on their ability to meet the needs of their children.

Parent family general

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Two such parents are Joan and Stephen.

Joan and Stephen have three children – Sam (8), Sarah (6) and Louis (3). Stephen has a diagnosed mental illness which greatly affects his mood and behaviour. His medication makes him very drowsy so he sleeps a lot. As a result Joan takes on virtually all of the family responsibilities, she is also Stephen’s main support.

Last year Joan found it was all getting too much and she began to experience anxiety and depression. Her GP prescribed medication to help her cope.

Joan contacted Barnardos around this time looking for support.

She was finding basic household tasks difficult, she was struggling to care for her children and she was falling behind on rent and household bills.

Joan was also very concerned about her children’s well-being, particularly Sam who was more aware of the challenges in the home and had become quite withdrawn and anxious.

Barnardos worked closely with the family, making home visits and supporting Joan and Stephen to meet their children’s needs. Barnardos also met with Sam weekly to give him a space to express his feelings and build his self-esteem.

Joan and Stephen have voiced frustration with mental health services.

They observed that services ‘are good for adults but not for parents’, particularly those that Stephen accesses which they say don’t take into account his role as a parent.

They feel services should include access to family supports to help all family members during this time.

When Joan needed help with her own mental health, medication was the only solution offered, she felt she would benefit more from talking therapy as well as more practical supports to help her feel less overwhelmed.

They both noted there is little available to support children in understanding that a parent has a mental illness and how that impacts their behaviour and relationships.

Barnardos Head of Advocacy, June Tinsley said: “In Barnardos we believe all mental health services must look at the individual as a whole, particularly recognising when patients are parents, ensuring that parenting is not impeded and where tailored parental support is needed it should be integrated in the response.”

Barnardos helps transform children’s lives through their services; by supporting parents; and by challenging society where it fails children. Barnardos works in over 40 projects across the country and was established in Ireland in 1962.

Visit www.barnardos.ie for more information

*Note: names and identifying details of individuals mentioned have been changed.

Barnardos have service centres in: Regional Office,  Newlands Business Park; Barnardos Family Support Project Cherry Orchard Avenue; Teenage Parents Support Programme, Newlands Business Park; Millbrook Child and Family Centre and Acorn Parent Coaching Programme, Millbrook Health Centre; Barnardos Child & Family Centre, Jobstown; Special Needs Service, HSE, Chamber House; Lorien Project, Fortunestown.

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