“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” (WHO, 2014). Parental mental health is one of the ‘toxic trio’, substance misuse and domestic violence add up to make three issues that rarely exist in isolation.
Research suggests that mental health problems can affect the way you think, feel and behave. The same research claims that mental health does affect around one in four people in Britain, and range from common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, to more rare problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Research findings claim that families where parents have mental health problems, parental substance misuse and domestic violence the children are at risk of developing complex needs. Stanley et al (2010) suggest that when assessing the risk of harm for children living with parents with mental health, practitioners should consider parent-child relationship, parent’s responsiveness to the child’s needs, content of delusional thinking, history of parent’s anger management and the availability of another responsible adult. Research suggests that people with mental health problems are more likely to be survivors of domestic violence and abuse or vice versa. Key factors that relate to Mental Health are the disclosure of suicidal feelings, threats to kill, stress factors, lack of engagement with services, substance and domestic abuse. Mental health affects all of us especially the ability to cope with tough times or to play our full role in family, workplace, community and friends. “The label ‘mental illness’, and the diagnostic terminologies that go with a biomedical how people see themselves and are seen by others” (Tew, 2011, p.4).
The combination of ‘toxic trio’ is associated with increased risks of abuse and neglect of young people.
“Time and again, it seems that the combination of problems is much more likely to have a detrimental impact on children than a parental disorder which exists in isolation” Cleaver et al (2011)
Brandon et al (1999) argues that in all cases where ‘toxic trio’ is evident it is children who are left vulnerable to the risk of significant harm. The legal threshold criteria for significant harm, Section 31 of the Children Act (1989) refers to ‘the care given or likely to be given to the child by the carer. “Section 31 (9) further defines the concept as ill-treatment or impairment of health or development, compared to what could be reasonably expected of a similar child” (Children Act, 1989). Research suggests that there are risk factors that justify Children’s Services to assess a child’s needs when a parent or carer is displaying self-harming behaviour that may involve the child; obsessional compulsive behaviours involving the child; failure by parent to anticipate needs of the child and when parental mental ill health is taking precedence over the child’s needs. The theories of psychological development incorporate three principles namely: behavioural maturation, future behaviours and human response to particular event or experience. The people who recover from Mental Health problems do not recover from isolation but through social inclusion. “Recovery is closely associated with social inclusion and being able to take in meaningful and satisfying social roles within local communities rather than in segregated services. Recovery is about discovering, or rediscovering, a sense of personal identity, separate from illness or disability”. (Shepherd et al., 2008) Parental mental health problems can have detrimental effects on the bonds of infant care and attachment for they are very essential to their drive for survival. Young people’s attachment to a caregiver is widely believed to have a biological basis in the need for survival. “In contrast, instability in the caregiving relationship, whether physical distance, erratic patterns of parental behaviour, or even physical or emotional abuse—may interfere with the sense of trust and security, potentially giving rise to anxiety and psychological problems later in childhood or even decades later in life” (Bowlby 2005 p 3-4)


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