Who can help?
When you feel as though you are struggling with your mental health, asking for help can sometimes seem like a scary step to take. However, many parents tell us they tried to manage alone for too long and wish they had reached out earlier.
Please be reassured that it is very common to need emotional support when you have a child with a serious health condition and this is nothing to be ashamed of. There is a lot of help available and people and organisations who can help you access it.
“When Elijah was 18 months I went to the GP. I broke down, terrified they would take my baby away, that I was an unfit mother. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Counselling, therapy and medication – I’ve done it all” – Vicki Cockerill.
Your Cardiac Liaison Nurse
Your child’s Cardiac Liaison Nurse will be able to provide you with emotional support, information and advice regarding your mental health. Do have a chat with them and be honest about how you’re feeling.
Chat to your GP about how you feel. He or she can discuss different options with you and make a referral where appropriate. The Mental Health Foundation has written a useful guide for how to speak to your GP about your mental health here.
Your Health Visitor
If you have a health visitor, talk to them about any worries or difficult thoughts and feelings you may be experiencing. They are there to support you in managing your mental health.
Your School Nurse
If your child is at school, you can also talk to the school nurse. They can support you with your mental health and wellbeing by signposting you to services that can help.
“I waited a long time before I got help (too long in hindsight), but I did finally force myself to seek the right support. My GP referred me to the Perinatal Mental Health Team and the psychiatrist diagnosed me with postnatal depression and anxiety. After much thought and research, I started to take antidepressant medication, worked with an Occupational Therapist and tried to practise mindfulness (later enlisting on a Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course)” – Sarah
If you feel more comfortable speaking to someone on the phone, there are many helplines dedicated to helping you access the support you need.
0300 123 3393
This is an information and signposting service, open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays). Find out more here.
The Samaritans offer emotional support and their helpline is open 24 hours a day.
Call free in the UK: 116 123
PANDAS is a UK charity dedicated to supporting parents or affected by perinatal mental illness.
Call free in the UK: 0808 1961 776
The helpline is open every day between 11am and 10pm.
ARC offers non-directive information and support to parents before, during and after antenatal screening
Call 0207 713 7486 Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 8 and 10pm or email firstname.lastname@example.org at any time
The NHS has put together a detailed list of helplines here.
“Having a child with a heart condition is a hell of a journey. Sometimes you feel like you’re battling the tide – swimming for all your worth but getting swept along in the wrong direction. But, for the lucky ones among us, there are also days when the sea is calm and flat – days when you still need to keep swimming, but you can do a bit of floating and can take the time to look back to see how far you’ve come” – Jon
Leo’s supports families with premature or sick babies. Visit their website here.
Bliss has published some very useful information about how parents of sick children can look after their mental health. You can read it here.
Find some practical information from NHS Choices, including mood assessment tools, here.
Twins Trust provides support and information for the parents of twins and multiples.
Ieso Health provides free online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions. There’s no need to be referred by your GP, but the service is only available in certain areas at the moment. You can check and see if your area is covered and then sign up here.
Where to get urgent help
Find out who can help if you or someone you care about needs urgent help for a mental health crisis or breakdown on the NHS website here.
With thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund for funding our ‘Looking After Your Mental Health’ advice and support for heart families.