Supporting parents’ mental health

Our series on burnout highlights the impact of the last years on working mums. There needs to be more support for their mental health and that of their children generally.

mental health at work open book on table and coffee Business


We have been running a series of reports on the impact of burnout on working mums and what employers can do to tackle it. Research shows that some employers who increased their mental health support of workers during the early part of the pandemic have stopped checking in on them regularly as restrictions were relaxed. Yet we know that mental health issues have a long tail and that worries about finances only exacerbate them. The worst is surely not over yet and the impact will be felt for years to come.

The last week has brought yet more huge change – from the appointment of a new Prime Minister to the death of the Queen. There is also ongoing uncertainty about fuel bills – who will pay for the support package, will business get more support after six months, will it be enough to help those already unable to cope with the effects of inflation?

Mums have been on the frontline of all of this, having faced the heaviest burden of juggling homeschooling and working during the lockdowns, with single mums particularly badly impacted. We get emails every day from single parents who are extremely worried. Often they are also facing the psychological impact of the last few years – and more – on their children.

Dealing with children’s mental health issues, often while trying to tend to your own, is exhausting. The worry is immense and, in some cases, it can result in children being too ill or feeling unable to go to school. The number of young people suffering from panic attacks and anxiety in addition to other mental health issues, such as eating disorders or self harm, has been rising for years. Covid has exacerbated these, although for some young people being forced to stay at home has alleviated their social anxiety.

A few years ago my daughter was suffering from panic attacks linked to bullying at school. At the time I went on a few forums to get advice and support. How do you encourage young people into school when they are shaking and saying they can’t breathe and when their school may not have the resources to help them? I was surprised at how many parents were in the same situation. Some of the children had special needs, others had been bullied, others had different reasons for their anxiety. What do parents do? In my case I felt I had to take my daughter out of school due to the lack of support. In the end she changed schools, but there was a term of homeschooling while working, a forewarning of things to come.

So many parents are in this kind of position, either keeping their children off school or having to get them into school one way or another and hope for the best. All of this takes a huge toll on them, which is often unrecognised. I know several friends whose children have attempted suicide or are self harming. We speak about the lack of support for parents who are in this position, particularly parents of older children. So much parental support is focused on small children. Teenagers are a whole different ball game and, when it comes to mental wellbeing, there needs to be more help for both them and their parents. Parent networks at work have become increasingly popular and peer support is invaluable, but they are more common in larger organisations. There need to be more resources, including peer support, available generally.

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