Parental mental health

Where parents experience mental health problems, a holistic approach to assessment is central to providing appropriate services to both parents and children.

The impact that parental mental health problems can have on children and young people depends on a range of factors, such as the support put in place, family circumstances, severity of the problems or child’s resilience.

With the right conditions and support in place, children can receive appropriate and nurturing care. Nevertheless, professionals need to be aware that parental mental health problems may pose risks to a child’s development and wellbeing, in the form of emotional, psychological or social vulnerabilities, neglect or abuse.

Children might experience a high level of anxiety, social isolation, financial hardship, possible separation from their parent/carer, disruptions from education, stigma or bullying and, in more severe cases, risk of immediate harm.

Pre-natal and post-natal depression can affect the bonding between a parent and their baby and the care that a parent is able to provide.

Practitioners must keep a child’s best interests at the centre, recognising and building on the strengths of the family and distinguishing between immediate concerns for the child’s safety and their wellbeing, and the risks which can be mitigated with appropriate support (NSPCC How to help children living with parents with mental health problems).

Effective partnership working across services is fundamental to ensure that children are protected and their short-term and longer-term needs are met (National Guidance for Child Protection).

Key resources

Guidance Resource Icon

National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2023

Year: 2023 | Topic: Active implementation | Author: The Scottish Government
The Scottish Government has updated National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland which was published in 2021.
Policy Resource Icon

Scottish Government Mental Health Strategy (2017-2027)

Year: 2017 | Topic: Parental mental health | Author: Scottish Government
Ten year national vision to approach mental health.