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5.23 Mental Illness of a Parent or Carer


Working with People Who May Have Experienced or May be Experiencing Domestic Violence / Abuse


This chapter was updated in August 2021 to add a new Section 4, Further Information. New links were added to: ‘Mind’; ‘Parental mental illness - impact on children (2017)’ and ‘NSPCC, Parental mental health problems (2019 - updated)’.


  1. Introduction
  2. Implications
  3. Action to Safeguard
  4. Further Information

1. Introduction

Mental illness in a parent or carer does not necessarily have an adverse impact on a child, but it is essential always to assess its implications for any children involved in the family.

2. Implications

Parental mental illness can have an impact on children in a number of ways including:

  • Restriction of social and recreational activities for children;
  • Children taking caring responsibilities for adults or other children inappropriate to their age;
  • Neglect of a child's physical or emotional needs;
  • Forms of mental illness may blunt parents' emotions and feelings, or cause them to behave towards their children in bizarre or violent ways; in extreme circumstances this may place a child at risk of severe injury, profound neglect, or even death;
  • Children forming part of the parents delusional beliefs;
  • Post natal depression can be linked to behavioural and physiological problems in the infants of such mothers;
  • Risks associated with children having access to parental medication.

The adverse effects on children of parental mental illness are less likely when the illness is mild, lasts only a short time, is not associated with family disharmony, and does not result in the family breaking up. Highlight parental mental heath as contributing factor within SCR's 'toxic trio'.

Children may also be protected when the another parent or family member can respond to the child's needs

Children suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm where mental illness of a parent or carer is a feature of family life are those who feature within parental delusions, those who become targets for parental aggression or rejection, and those who are neglected as result of parental mental illness.

3. Action to Safeguard

Although there are no specific procedures for working with children who are suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm where the mental ill health of a parent or carer is a feature of family life, it is important that all professionals and agencies involved co-operate as closely as possible.

Some professionals involved with such families will be working primarily with an adult member of the family. However, they should not lose sight of their joint responsibility to safeguard the interests of any child in the family, and any such professional should be invited to and take part in discussions, meetings and conferences concerning the welfare or protection of the child, as arranged. Effective communication between professionals in adult services and children's universal services is vital with a view to parental mental heath and the impact this may have on parenting capacity.

Those professionals involved in treating or providing a service to adults with mental ill health who are also parents, should consider the need for completing an Early Help Assessment, or referring the child to Children's Social Care if there are any concerns about the care or welfare of the child - Referral, Investigation and Assessment Procedure

3.1 How do I get help?

Liverpool anyone aged 16 and over

For urgent mental health support, please call our 24/7 freephone helpline: 0800 145 6570.

You can Self refer to Talk Liverpool by contacting us directly:

  • Completing the self referral form;
  • By telephoning us on 0151 228 2300.

You can also be referred to the service by any of the following:

  • Your GP;
  • Any health or social care professional;
  • Any voluntary or third sector organisation;
  • Job centre Plus;
  • The Life Rooms is available to anyone 18+ and you can self refer or be referred by a health professional.
    • They offer:
      • Online staying well at home learning courses;
      • Pathway advisors who can support and advise with debt management, employment, housing issues, benefits and more;
      • Social inclusion advice for isolated community groups.
    • To find out more about The Life Rooms Service, visit their page on our website, visit or call them on 0151 478 6556.

3.2 If Parent/Carer are NOT currently receiving support from mental health services:

  • If their/your GP feels support from secondary mental health services is required they may refer them/you to the local community mental health team (CMHT);
  • If they/you are feeling very distressed, despairing or suicidal and need immediate help please contact your GP or GP on call (if out of hours) and request an emergency appointment, contact the Samaritans on 08457 909090 or go to your nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department where a mental health practitioner will be able to assess you and give you appropriate help;
  • If they/you are concerned about an immediate risk to self-harm or your physical health is at a significant risk because of overdose or injury, it may be necessary to call 999 for an ambulance.

3.3 If you or Parent/Carer are receiving support from secondary mental health services:

  • Your community mental health care team can help:
    Monday-Friday 9am – 5pm. Tel: 0151 250 3000.
    If in crisis outside of these hours, attend your nearest A&E;
  • You may still attend your nearest A&E if you are unable to speak to someone immediately;
  • If you have a care plan, it will have a list of names and numbers to contact in an emergency.

3.4 Worried about someone else?

If you are concerned that someone else is very distressed and might be considering suicide please encourage them to contact their GP and make an emergency appointment. Alternatively, you may choose to contact the Police on 999.

Similarly if you become concerned that someone is at risk of hurting someone else.

If you need to talk to someone in confidence, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on: Tel: 0151 708 8888.

4. Further Information

HM Government, 'Mental Health Concordat: Improving outcomes for people experiencing mental health crisis (2014)'.

NSPCC All babies Count: Spotlight on Perinatal Mental Health (2012)


RCPSYCH, Parental mental illness: the impact on children and adolescents: for parents and carers

NSPCC, Parental mental health problems