Parenting can be one of the most rewarding jobs but it’s a careful balancing act that requires adequate resourcing and support.
The demands of parenting can also feel considerably amplified by a mental illness like depression, which can lead to decreased energy, insomnia and mood swings. Although it may feel like a lonely time, depression is not uncommon; approximately 1 in 6 parents with a child under 18 has a mental illness.
Being a single parent at the same time as having depression can also exacerbate the situation. In fact, single parents are twice as likely to experience mental health problems than those in a couple. This may have a negative impact on children, who may not understand that these symptoms are part of the illness and through no fault of theirs.
Joanne Nicholson, PhD, author of Parenting Well When You’re Depressed: A Complete Resource for Maintaining a Healthy Family says that ‘the biggest challenge is stigma. It can be difficult to acknowledge that you’re struggling and seek treatment. Parents feel as if others are watching them a little more closely and may have negative assumptions.’
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is working towards reducing that stigma. April 7th is WHO World Health Day and their 2017 theme is depression, which “affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries” and is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.
There is support available for parents who find themselves struggling with depression. Here are our six tips to help you cope.
- Seek Diagnosis and Treatment for Depression
Due to the complexities of depression and the stigma attached, many people baulk at this first step. However, there are many highly effective therapies available and early intervention is key.
Work with doctors and therapists to treat your illness as you would a physical problem. According to depression and anxiety charity BeyondBlue, the main medical treatment is antidepressant medication, which is used in conjunction with psychological treatments such as therapy. BeyondBlue also have a Mental Health Checklist for Mums to promote awareness and diagnosis of postnatal depression, which can be overwhelming for new mothers.
- Access Medicare
One way the Australian government provides support for people with depression is through the GP Mental Health Care Plan. If you aren’t feeling well, see your local doctor and tell them what’s wrong. They can complete a Mental Health Plan which will give you access to a Medicare Rebate for up to 10 individual or 10 group sessions with a Clinical Psychologist.
- Connect with Others Who Have Depression
Depression can cause feelings of isolation. Know that you aren’t alone. There are many community support groups and forums run by organisations like SANE Australia. Talking to people who have been through similar issues and found coping mechanisms can be extremely powerful.
- Create a Plan During Calm Times
Depression can often move in peaks and troughs. When you are feeling more centered, talk to your therapist and establish a coping framework for emergencies. If your symptoms escalate and parenting becomes impossible – for example, you need to go into hospital – ensure that you have a plan in place for who will look after your children and make them feel secure.
- Enrol Children in Activities
Get your children involved in extracurricular activities they enjoy, such as sports or a performance group. This can be beneficial for the whole family and will give children the opportunity to connect with the community.
- Get Support With Parenting
There are government-funded, in-home child care programs available for situations where the well-being of children may be at risk due to a range of physical and social factors. Depression and postnatal depression in primary caregivers is considered to be one of these factors.
Utilising the skills and expertise of an in-home carer can have a long-lasting, healthy impact. They can not only provide support when you are unwell but assist you with strategies to get you back on your feet.
Zest Care has been providing tailored education and care for families in their homes for 16 years, working with community and government organisations to help families meet their unique goals. With up to 161 hours a week of in-home child care available, we can guide you through the application process.
Find out more today about how Zest Care can support you and your family to live the best life possible.