Of course, very many people who experience mental health difficulties manage them with no or little impact on their children. However, for some growing up with a parent who suffers from serious mental health problems can be difficult. This is more likely when these difficulties leak into family life due to a lack of insight, emotional unavailability, addiction, financial hardship, interpersonal or anger problems. Limited social support and poor access to professional support can further exacerbate the impact.
This is absolutely not about blaming anyone with mental health issues, who may well be trying their very best in extremely challenging circumstances, it is about acknowledging the wider impact on the family unit to prevent ‘inter-generational’ mental health problems.
Whether your parent suffers from addiction, severe depression or anxiety, psychosis or more complex interpersonal issues family life may be impacted. Home, your ‘safe base’ can, at times, become an unpredictable environment. It is very distressing to watch your parent suffer, especially as a child. Sometimes children assume responsibility for 'fixing' their parent or erroneously conclude there is something wrong with them because they cannot 'love them better'.
Historically mental health problems have been shrouded in shame often kept as ‘family secret’ which can present barriers to seeking support. As a child speaking about what was happening in the family home may even have been considered a betrayal preventing help seeking whilst contributing to feelings of confusion, helplessness and isolation.
A times, roles become reversed with children often seeming ‘wise beyond their years’ by taking on responsibility for keeping the peace or looking after siblings all the while subjugating their own needs.
These are some tips for recovery but if you are really struggling it is important to seek professional support: