The Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted have issued a recommendation to the UK government to make it compulsory that mental health services gather data about children who have parents or carers with mental health problems.
The report, titled "What about the children?", was published by the two bodies as a joint survey, it brought to light the need to identify children living with parents/guardians who have mental health problems, considering many of them are not receiving the help they need.
Children who live with parents or carers with mental health problems are at an increased risk of harm.
Although it is mandatory to gather data about children living with parents who have drug or alcohol problems - which is reported to the National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse - there is currently no such measure among children living with parents with mental health problems.
Often, children who are being raised by parents/guardians with mental health issues are very poorly supported.
The most common characteristics of families in which children had either died or been seriously harmed were either mental health difficulties or drug/alcohol problems, according to an Ofsted analysis of case reviews between 2007 and 2011.
Mental health problems common among adultsAround 1 in 6 adults in the UK, close to 9 million, experiences mental health problems at some point in their lives. It is estimated that around 30 percent of adults with mental health problems have children.
Childhood abuse can cause severe long term damage. A previous study published in the journal Child Development revealed that children who suffer abuse can suffer from chronic stress which can harm development and health - leading to depression.
According to the Deputy Social Care Director for Ofsted, Sally Rowe:
"This report raises some significant concerns for children who are living in very difficult and vulnerable situations. If children living with parents with mental health problems are to receive the right support and protection then the same level of scrutiny should be applied as those whose parents have issues with substance abuse.
That is why we believe it should be a mandatory requirement for this data to be collected to ensure local agencies are focused on the needs of these children."
The regulators believe that although the majority of parents with mental health problems live fairly ordinary family lives, there are also many families who would benefit from additional support.
The CQC Director for Regulatory Development, Philip King added:
"Adult mental health services and drug and substance misuse services play an important role in child protection. The point of our joint work is not to question the parenting ability of people with mental health problems, many lead perfectly ordinary family lives.
However, information from some notable serious case reviews highlight the fact that some parents and their children need additional support due to the effects that mental illness can have on families. In these circumstances identification and early help is key, and this is what we have identified as the issue."
There's a recent example where the mental health of a mother of two children, who had a history of anxiety and depression, worsened following the death of her partner to a point where she spent most the day asleep and hadn't showered in 6 months. Had it not been for a hospital admission, a referral to social services on behalf of the children would not have been made.
Children in such cases should receive sustained support for long term help, say the two regulators.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today