A parent having a mental health problem does not make them a bad parent

Release Date: 10 November 2011

Source: Mental Health Foundation

Country: United Kingdom

Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive at the Mental Health Foundation responds to the NSPCC's All Babies Count report claiming that at least one newborn baby in four is at high risk of death or abuse because one or both parents are beset by domestic violence, mental health difficulties or substance dependency which was referred to by the press as a "toxic trio".

The Foundation has welcomed the NSPCC report highlighting the heightened risk to babies in families where mental health problems, substance misuse and domestic violence exist; although a parent having a mental health problem does not make them a bad parent or necessarily put a baby at risk. Many parents with mental health problems provide an excellent and loving home environment for their babies and young children.

But parenting a new baby can be incredibly hard for anyone, regardless of their circumstances. Andrew McCulloch said:

“Clearly we need to identify families where risk is high and offer quick and appropriate support. Some parents with mental health problems will struggle, and can feel isolated and unsupported. Help must be easily accessible for them."  

The Foundation is a member of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, which has made a child’s early years one of its key priorities. The Coalition has pointed out that new parents are under tremendous pressure, and if they are also dealing with poverty, mental health problems of their own such as post-natal depression, or difficult home lives the stresses are aggravated.

Andrew McCulloch added:

“The NSPCC report provides extra impetus for the Coalition’s call for an increase in the number and skills of Health Visitors. We want the Government to establish the promotion of infant and family mental health as a key priority for Health Visitors.

In addition, we believe everyone should have parenting education so their children can develop healthy attachment. Every parent should have access to the advice and support to enable them to maintain good health, good relationships at home, and their baby’s wellbeing. And every parent should know how to access that support.

There are many ways that have been shown to work in supporting parents to raise happier, healthier children. Sure Start Children’s Centres, and the Family Nurse Partnership programme are excellent examples, and that work needs to be extended. We also need to ensure that parents are being supported by agencies who take a ‘whole family’ approach to supporting the baby and child.”