Mental Health Needs among Parent

Being a parent is a indeed a blessing. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the opportunity to become a parent. However, it has been suggested by Brotherson (2004) that parenting is the hardest job any person will ever have and seems to be the job we are often the least prepared to begin with. Becoming a parent involves taking on a new role in life .It is actually one of the most important life transitions we ever face as adults. Although the birth of a child is a happy event, it will also bring new worries, challenges and stresses. Thus, parents need to prepare for the mental and emotional changes or challenges that occur when a child is born. This is to ensure that the well being of both parents and child are being taken care of. Why Parents need mental health The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Therefore mental health needs of a parent are the needs of an individual to be fulfilled in order to function optimally and cope with daily stressors while bringing up their children. Parents play an important role in supporting children’s healthy development. Therefore the mental health needs of a parents need to be fulfilled in order to function well as a parents. If the mental health needs of a parents are not fulfilled, it will have a negative impact not only on themselves but also on their children. One of the basic thing that could be affected is attachment or bonding. A child need to have good attachment or bonding with their parents. Poor bonding especially to mother and negative early life experience, can negatively impact children’s social-emotional health, and development . Fact and Statistic Several research show that several risk factors such as drug and alcohol use, mental health conditions and domestic violence exposure, can impact parents’ ability to support children’s development, and may contribute to behavioral problems among young children as early as age 3. They have been found to be two to three times more likely than children without these family risk factors to experience problems such as:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hyperactivity

Nicholson, Biebel, Katz-Levy & Williams ( 2004) found that more than two-thirds of adults with mental illness are parents. Children of parents with mental illness are associated with problem such as:

  • Higher rates of mental illness (30- 50 % of children with parents who are mentally ill have a psychiatric diagnosis, compared to 20 percent of children in the general population). (Hammen,2003)
  • Higher rates of difficulties with handling emotions, relationship problems and developmental delays.
  • Brown, Harris & Peto (1973), in their model of depression suggest that having more than three children under the age of 14 at home plus certain “vulnerability factors” such as loss of mother at a young age, having unsupportive spouse, and being unemployed may increase the risk of depression in female.

Sign and Symptoms The symptoms of unmet mental health needs may be presented as followings :

  • Physiological –symptoms such as headache, muscle pain or exacerbation of pre-existing physical health condition
  • Behavioural- irritability,aggression and poor performance at work
  • Psychological-Symptoms as depression, anxiety and mood instability.

Complication Treatment Mental illnesses can be treated in a number of ways: through drug therapy, counselling, occupational therapy, rehabilatation or a combination of these. What parent need to do?

  • Be well prepared about taking the new role. Always look on the brighter side. This is because your anxiety about parenting reflects how you will manage a child’s distress. Children need to feel a parent’s patience and personal confidence. See yourself as a parent and develop your skills.
  • Read available materials on preparing for parenthood or caring for a newborn child
  • Learn about normal children’s development so you can approach parenting your child with realistic expectations.
  • Don’t focus on the negatives. Develop a positive approach toward raising a child and look for positive things to appreciate each day.
  • Go for parenting skill seminars and workshop.
  • Learn from your past experience. Think of what are the good things that your parents had done in bringing you up and what are the things that you wish that your could do better as parent compared to what your parents did.
  • Develop practices that will help in interacting with your child, such as playing music, singing softly or speaking to your child. Communication is important in any relationship.
  • Keep good relationship with your spouse. A harmonious environment helps in children’s development. A supportive spouse helps in reducing distress in taking care of the children.
  • Get feedback from other people’s experience. Increase your social support network that can help you as a parent. This could be your parents, relatives or even friends. Find out who you can look to for help and advice.
  • Avoid taking alcohol and drugs. Try to get help if you have addiction to these substances.
  • Have a good financial plan. Sit with your spouse to plan financial wisely for the children’s future education. Set priorities and necessities

What to do if you have pre existing Mental Illness?

  • Seek medical help if you already have preexisting mental illness.
  • Doktor boleh membantu dalam menstabilkan penyakit anda dan memastikan bahawa anda mampu menjaga anak-anak sepenuhnya.

Jika anda mengenali seseorang yang mempunyai penyakit mental, anda boleh lakukan perkara berikut:

  • Bantu dalam menjaga anak-anak mereka ketika mereka menghadapi waktu yang sukar.
  • Bercakap/berbincang dengan anak mereka mengenai kebimbangan dan kekeliruan mereka berkaitan penyakit ibu-bapa
  • Bantu ibu bapa tersebut untuk mendapatkan rangkaian sosial dan individu yang dapat dihubungi ketika kecemasan.


Semakan Akhir : 5 August 2013
Penulis : Dr. Firdaus Abd Ghani