Parental Mental Health

This section of the website will give you some information and tips on Anxiety, Depression and Stress. It will also give an insight into how parental mental health can impact on your child and how to get support if you are worried about it.


It can be difficult to define what stress means exactly, but when we talk about feeling stressed we might be talking about: 

-  Having lots to do or think about and maybe having little control over what will happen.

-  The feeling we get when we don't feel able to cope with the demands placed on us. 

There's no medical definition of stress, and health care professionals often disagree over whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them. This can make it difficult for you to work out what causes stressed feelings or how to deal with them. Whatever your personal definition of stress is, it's likely that you can learn to manage your stress better by:

-  Managing external pressures so stressful situations don't happen as often.

Developing your emotional resilience so you get better at being able to handle difficult situations when they do happen and therefore won't feel as stressed.

It's normal to be under pressure at times in life, but if you become overwhelmed by stress it can start to become a problem. Stress is closely linked to your mental health in two ways:

-  Stress can cause mental health issues and make existing problems worse, for example if you struggle to manage feelings of stress you may also suffer from anxiety or depression.

You may find coping with the symptoms of your mental health and managing it can become another source of stress. 

This can start to feel like a vicious circle which means it becomes difficult to see where stress ends and mental health issues begin. 

Signs of Stress
How you might feel
  • irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up
  • over-burdened
  • anxious, nervous or afraid
  • like your thoughts are racing and you can't switch off
  • unable to enjoy yourself
  • depressed
  • uninterested in life
  • like you've lost your sense of humour
  • a sense of dread
  • worried about your health
  • neglected or lonely
How you might behave
  • finding it hard to make decisions
  • avoiding situations that are troubling you
  • snapping at people
  • biting your nails
  • picking at your skin
  • unable to concentrate
  • eating too much or too little
  • smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual
  • restless, like you can't sit still
  • feeling tearful or crying
How you might be physically affected
  • shallow breathing or hyperventilating
  • you might have a panic attack
  • blurred eyesight or sore eyes
  • problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or having nightmares
  • tired all the time
  • grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
  • headaches
  • chest pains
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion or heartburn
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • feeling sick, dizzy or fainting
Dealing with Stress

Identify triggers
Working out what triggers stress for you can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. 

Have a think about what could be contributing to your stress:

- issues that come up regularly and worry you for example paying a bill or attending an appointment
- one off events like taking an exam or moving house
- ongoing circumstances like being a carer or having problems at work

When you consider all of this you might be surprised to find out how much you're coping with at once. Remember that not having enough work, activities or change in your life can be just as stressful as having too much to deal with.

Organise your time
Making some adjustments to the way you organise your time could help you feel more in control of any tasks you're facing, and more able to handle pressure.

- Identify your best time of day and do important tasks that need the most energy and concentration at that time of day.
- Make a list of things you have to do. Arrange them in order of importance, and try to focus on the most urgent first. If your tasks are work related, ask a manager or colleague to help you prioritise. You may be able to push back some tasks until you're feeling less stressed.
- Vary your activities. Balance interesting tasks with more mundane ones, and stressful tasks with those you find easier or can do more calmly.
- Try not to do too much at once. If you take on too much, you might find it harder to do any individual task well. This can make you feel like you have even more pressure on you.
- Take breaks and take things slowly. It might be difficult to do this when you're stressed, but it can make you more productive.

Think about addressing the causes
There will always be things in life that you can't do much about, but there might be some practical ways you could resolve or improve the issues that are putting pressure on you, for example, if work is causing you stress speak to your manager about supporting you with your workload. 

Be active
Exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly.

Take Control
There are solutions to problems, if you feel like you can't do anything a particular problem your stress is likely to increase. That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.

The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it's a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.

Connect with People
A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.

The activities we do with friends help us relax. Having a laugh and enjoying time with friends is an excellent stress reliever.

Make time for you
Sometimes you need a bit of quality "me" time to just relax and do the things you enjoy, whether that is spending time with friends, going for a run or reading a book.

Accept the things you can't change
It's not easy, but accepting that there are some things happening to you that you probably can't do anything about will help you focus your time and energy more productively.

Depression: Let's Talk


Depression is a low mood that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. It lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

Depression in it's mildest form can just mean being in low spirits, but it's more than just feeling down or sad. Depression will cause a person to have intense feelings of hopelessness, negativity and helplessness which they find very difficult to get rid of.

It can happen to anyone. Many successful and famous people who seem to have everything going for them battle with this problem. Depression also affects people of every age.


Below are some of the common signs and symptoms of depression.

How you might feel How you might behave
down, upset or tearful avoiding social events and activities you usually enjoy
restless, agitated or irritable self-harming or suicidal behaviour
guilty, worthless and down on yourself finding it difficult to speak or think clearly
empty and numb difficulty in remembering or concentrating on things
isolated and unable to relate to other people using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
a sense of unreality feeling tired all the time
no self-confidence or self-esteem no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
hopeless and despairing physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
suicidal moving very slowly, or being restless and agitated
Helping yourself...

Experiencing depression can make it difficult to find the energy to look after yourself. Taking an active role in your treatment, and taking steps to help yourself cope with your experiences, can make a big difference to how you feel.

Looking after yourself

- Getting a good sleep can help to improve your mood and increase your energy levels.
- Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help you feel well and think more clearly.
- Many people find exercise a challenge but gentle activities like yoga, swimming or walking can be a big boost to your mood.
- When you're experiencing depression, it's easy for hygiene to not feel like a priority. But small things, like taking a shower and getting fully dressed whether or not you're going out of the house, can make a big difference to how you feel.
- While you might want to use drugs or alcohol to cope with any difficult feelings, in the long run they can make you feel a lot worse.

Practice self-care

- Try making a list of activities, people and places that make you happy or feel good and then try to find ways of bringing those things into your daily routine.
- Treat yourself when you're feeling down. Try to do at least one positive thing for yourself every day. This could be taking the time for a long bath, spending time with a pet or reading your favourite book.
- Boost your resilience - you could do this by creating a list of activities you know improve your mood, or you could fill an actual box with things to do to cheer yourself up when you're not feeling your best.
- Be kind to yourself - try not to beat yourself up too much when things don't go to plan or you find yourself feeling low. Treat yourself like you would a friend and go easy on yourself.

Keep yourself busy

- Try joining a community group, sports team or other hobby group. The important thing is to find an activity you enjoy, or perhaps something you've always wanted to try, to help you feel motivated.
- Try something new, like starting a new hobby, learning something new or even trying new food, can help boost your mood and break unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour.
- Try volunteering, this can help in making yourself feel better by helping others and also help you feel less alone.
Remember, that whilst it would be beneficial to get out and do these things if you're not feeling your best it can be difficult, so make sure you set yourself achievable goals. If you can achieve realistic goals can help you feel good and boost your self-confidence, and help you move on to bigger ones.

Challenge your low mood
- Keep a mood diary - this can help you keep track of any changes in your mood, and you might find that you have more good days than you think. It can also help you notice if any activities, places or people make you feel better or worse.
- Challenge your negative thinking - Students Against Depression have lots of information on this.
- Contact a helpline if you're struggling with difficult feelings, and you can't talk to someone you know, there are many helplines you can contact where you can speak to people who are trained to listen and could help you feel more able to cope with your low mood.

Connect with people
- Keep in touch with friends and family. If you don't feel up to seeing people in person, or talking, send them a text or email.
- It might feel hard to start talking to your friends and family about what you're feeling, but many people find that just sharing their experiences can help them feel better.
- Join a support group or attend a programme. Going to a support group or a programme is a great way to share tips and meet other people who are going through similar things.
- Use online support - this can be useful when you don't feel able to do things in person. Online support is another, useful means of building a support network for yourself.

Anxiety is a term used to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. This would include the emotions and physical sensations we might experience when worried or nervous about something. Anxiety is related to fight or flight response, which is our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened.

We all know what it's like to feel anxious from time to time. It is totally normal to feel a little anxious or worried about certain situations or something you find particularly stressful, for example:

- Sitting an exam
Work related stress

- Attending an interview
- Starting a new job/school
- Moving away from home
- Deciding to get married or divorced

In situations like this it is understandable to feel a little worried about how you perform or what the outcome will be. You may even find you find it hard to eat, sleep or concentrate because you are worried.

A common response to anxiety is to ignore it. It can be difficult but if you can, facing up to how anxiety makes you feel can be the first step to breaking the cycle.

There are many things you can try to help you cope with anxiety. Here are a few suggestions of things you can do to work out how to manage your fears and reduce your anxiety.

Talk to someone you trust
Sometimes just talking to someone about what makes you anxious can make a difference. They might have even experienced similar feelings themselves and be able to chat through it with you or give you some suggestions as to how they coped. Having someone who will listen and show that they care can help.

Learning relaxation techniques can help you with the mental and physical feelings of anxiety. Try breathing exercises which may help you feel calmer.

Shift your focus

You may find it helpful to distract yourself from the way you are feeling. Mindfully observe a flower or picture, anything you find interesting or comforting. You might also find it helpful to use a stress ball or focus on completing a puzzle.

Listen to music
Some people find music comforting, listening to music that you find peaceful or that you enjoy can help you feel better. Try making yourself an upbeat playlist for when you're feeling down or worried.

Going for a walk or a run can help you get some time to yourself to clear your mind. If you're not able to do physical activities outdoors, or have limited mobility, there are smaller activities you can do indoors that may help too.

Eating Healthy

You may find it easier to relax if you avoid stimulants such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol. Some people also find a healthy diet helps them to manage anxiety better.