81% of parents in the UK say lockdown has affected their mental health
Parents in the UK were asked if lockdown is having an impact on their mental health by Motherdom magazine, the UK’s first media platform dedicated to maternal mental health.
Motherdom conducted two separate surveys – the first was launched at the end of March and the second at the end of April. There was little change between them: in the first, 82% of parents said that lockdown was affecting their mental health to some extent, and in the second, 80% of parents said the same.*
All quotes from parents in this press release are from the second survey.
Mental health impact
A mum of three (or more) children aged under 10 says lockdown is affecting her mental health a great deal:
“I feel isolated, lonely and suffocated all at once. I don’t have a minute of quiet and feel so stressed all the time. The government have done nothing to support the mental health of mothers so far. I can see PND [postnatal depression] and PNA [postnatal anxiety] rates soaring due to COVID and I doubt adequate funding will be allocated.”
A mum of one child aged between 1-5 explains why lockdown is impacting her mental health a lot:
“Peer support/friendships that helped me recover from PND are missing in my life now. Video calls aren’t the same and it’s so hard to schedule them around everyone’s different childcare arrangements. I just need a hug. I’m finding the constant time with my child really challenging and I’m feeling drawn back to old behaviours. It feels a lot like the start of my PND and it’s worried me a lot.”
A mum of three (or more) children aged under 10 also says it’s affecting her mental health a lot:
“Have felt extremely anxious and panicked at times, but it ebbs and flows. Juggling childcare, work, homeschooling and PND feels impossible at times, with no end in sight. All of the local pharmacies ran out of supplies of my dosage of antidepressants. The time it took to come up with a solution added another layer of stress that was difficult to climb down from.”
In the second survey, Motherdom asked respondents whether they’re finding anything particularly difficult because of lockdown (they were able to choose more than one answer):
- Childcare pressures: 48%
- Managing childcare and work: 48%
- Division of household labour: 44%
- Conflict within the family: 18%
- Money worries: 25%
- Managing existing health conditions: 19%
- None of the above: 14%
There was a small increase in the number of parents reporting finding positives to lockdown, however. In the first survey, 83% identified positives, and this rose to 91% in the second survey.
A mum of three kids aged under 5 says that she’s finding positives to lockdown:
“Enjoying our daily exercise in our surrounding countryside and discovering new walks from our doorstep. The enforced slow down has been good and not feeling the need to rush around. Not feeling the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses”. Eating dinner together as a family every night and having my husband home to help with parenting as he frequently travels for work.”
A mum of two children aged under 5 also comments on the positives she’s appreciating:
“Homecooked food, not spending as much, appreciating the small things, siblings bonding, learning a lot about ourselves and what’s most important, gratitude for having the basics covered.”
A dad of three (or more) children aged between 6-20 explains:
“The positives are the lockdown has proved how close we are as a family. The children have managed to ‘get along’ well with minimal arguments and are actually generous in giving their time to each other.”
A mum of two children under 5 outlines her lockdown positives:
“Having my husband at home as he wouldn’t have had this precious time with our baby otherwise! Starting to feel like not having to go out to groups classes etc is quite stress-relieving as normally I am constantly on the go trying to leave the house and faffing about etc! Makes you grateful for your loved ones and nature – getting out once a day is so sacred! And our TINY garden is amazing. Realising that all you need is love and health. Thankful for all the kindness that has come out of the community- our street, little acts of kindness, togetherness, the clapping every Thursday. OOF! [sic]”
What can parents do if they’re feeling down?
Perinatal Psychiatrist Dr Rebecca Moore says:
“It’s so important that any parent reading this today knows that there are lots of sources out there to support them. Services are stretched at the moment but they are all still open. If you are feeling low or anxious speak to your GP or Health Visitor. Call a helpline like PANDAS. Know you are not alone. Changes in your mental health are not your fault. They do not make you a bad parent. Try to tell someone how you feel and know you can and will feel better.”
Consultant Perinatal Psychologist Julianne Boutaleb says:
“Parenting in lockdown is relentless. Not only have the usual boundaries between home and work life disappeared, but parents have also lost their usual support networks and coping mechanisms. It is therefore vital that parents can practice the 3 Rs: reach out for emotional support, get respite from parenting where possible, and reset their mood regularly with a favourite activity – whatever that is.”
What do these results mean for parents’ mental health?
Perinatal Clinical Psychologist Dr Emma Svanberg says: “Many mothers I have spoken to in the past weeks have described the experience of being in lockdown with small children, often with paid work to do too, immensely stressful. The prevailing narrative is that we should see this as a time to pause and reassess our values – but it is impossible to do that if you don’t have any opportunity in the day to even be on your own. It is also notable that so many respondents raised a division of household labour as a stressor too as gender inequalities become highlighted. We know that mothers in the first year of their babies’ lives are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems, to the extent that this has been prioritised by NHS England in recent years. We are now seeing a generation of mothers who are dealing with many of the same stressors as the first year of parenthood but with the addition of health anxieties, financial worries, paid work to complete, and zero external support. It will not be surprising if we see a rise in mental health problems not just for parents but for their children too unless families are well supported.”
** This is not a scientific study but is intended to give an indication of how parents are feeling at this time. 346 U.K. parents took part in the first survey, and 148 of those took part in the second.