Innovative Trials are passionate about ensuring our diverse population is adequately represented within medical research. Whether it is wanting to see more people from underrepresented communities choosing science as a career and pushing for greater patient diversity in clinical trials or focusing on what we are doing internally to celebrate and promote equality and diversity. This month we celebrate Parent Mental Health Day. So far the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee at Innovative Trials has written blogs to raise awareness surrounding several illnesses, their effects, and treatments such as World Lupus Day, Malaria, Pride Month, Sickle Cell, Endometriosis , and Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

When things are busy, or we have too much on our plate, it’s natural to feel a certain amount of stress. It can be hard for parents to juggle their home and work life as well as the various unplanned events and tasks that crop up. This can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and being overwhelmed. 

A nationwide survey of over 2,000 parents and carers conducted by youth mental health charity stem4 found that about two thirds (63%) of parents and carers say that the cost of living crisis has negatively impacted their and their families mental health. This has led 82% of parents and carers to say they feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, and lack the resilience needed to overcome their daily struggles – with 32% saying they feel this way either all or most of the time. 

What is Parental Burnout and who is most at risk?

When the demands of life consistently exceed our mental and physical capacities, we can start to feel unable to cope, resulting in burnout. ‘Parental burnout’ is directly related to the role of being a parent and is more common in working parents. 

Whilst many parents and carers experience emotional struggles, the stem4 survey has shown that certain groups are particularly vulnerable. Groups in which large percentage of parents reported mental health difficulties include: 

  • Carers of looked-after children (71%),
  • Single parents (44%),
  • People on a low household income (46%),
  • Parents with a disability that prevents them from working (63%),
  • Parents on temporary contracts (46%),
  • Those working in Social Care, or as a nurse, paramedic or healthcare assistant (52%).

Signs and symptoms of Parental Burnout

Symptoms of parental burnout include feeling mentally and physically exhausted, distant from your children, and a sense that you are ineffective and lacking in confidence in your ability to parent. These symptoms can lead to a short temper, disrupted sleep, anxiety or panic, low mood and depression, not enjoying activities, a lack of motivation, and feelings of failure. In a workplace, these symptoms could present themselves in behavioural, physical and emotional signs. Some of these signs and symptoms can be: 

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities, 
  • Being late or calling in sick for work, 
  • Procrastinating, 
  • Feeling tired or drained, 
  • Frequent headaches, 
  • A sense of failure, 
  • Feelings of helplessness and defeat. 

Creating Positive Relationships

This year’s Parent Mental Health Day is focussed around Creating Positive Relationships, and below are some ideas on connecting with your family and creating strong, positive relationships: 

  • Be Present: Make time to strengthen your connections by focussing on being present together. Put down your phone and take time to actively listen. This will help to feel more engaged and connected. 
  • Eat together: Cooking, eating and clearing up together might sound mundane, but they are a part of family life and set out expectations within the family unit. 
  • Quality over quantity: Find ways to actively enjoy each other’s company. Find activities that everyone can enjoy as a family, but also remember that one-to-one time is also important to build on individual bonds. 
  • It’s not about being perfect: If we try too hard to be perfect, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Own up to our mistakes, be consistent and communicate well.
  • Leave stress at the door: Try to put your bad day aside and focus on enjoying your family. Stress levels can rise in sympathy with others, and children will take their emotional cues from their parents/carers in the same way. 

How do Innovative Trials support parents?

Being the parent of a child who requires medical care can be a highly stressful experience, with many additional practical and emotional burdens. Good communication and being well-informed about their child’s healthcare can help to reduce stress in parents.

Innovative Trials works with its partners to provide a variety of informative and engaging materials to help parents and children participating in clinical trials, including:

  • Advertising information about clinical trials that families may want to take part in.
  • Helping families understand what they can expect during their clinical trial journey.
  • Providing ‘retention items’ such as water bottles, comfort items, and toys or activity books to help keep children (and their grown-ups) comfortable and entertained during the trial.