Sussex mums of children with epilepsy ‘at risk’ of mental health problems

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Sussex mums of children diagnosed with epilepsy are at greater risk of significant mental health issues, a new study suggests.

New research just published shows the extent of stress, anxiety and depression amongst parents – particularly mothers – of children with epilepsy.

The Sussex Early Epilepsy and Neurobehaviour (SEEN) study, published by national charity, Young Epilepsy, highlights the impact of a child’s diagnosis on parents.

The study finds:

n Mothers of children with epilepsy were significantly more likely to score in the ‘at risk’ range than fathers on depression (55 per cent against 33 per cent), anxiety (47 per cent to 26 per cent) and stress (55 per cent to 31 per cent).

n Mothers of children with epilepsy were also significantly more likely to score in the at-risk range than mothers of children with a neurodisability on measures of depression and stress.

n There is a need to explore what parent and/or child focussed interventions might be useful to reduce the mental health difficulties reported by mothers of young children with epilepsy.

The research was completed in partnership with UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust and the Child Development Centre at Crawley Hospital, West Sussex.

All the parents who participated resided in the Sussex area.

Former UK Prime Minister and Young Epilepsy vice-president David Cameron has backed the research during his recent visit to the charity.

Mr Cameron said: “Samantha and I know first-hand from our much-loved son, Ivan, the emotional journey that parents go through when a child is diagnosed with epilepsy.

“Thanks to the hard work and research of Young Epilepsy we are learning more and more about this complex condition - and families are receiving that much needed reassurance that their loved ones are getting the appropriate care and support they deserve.”

Colin Reilly, who co-led on this research, added: “We recommend that parents of children with epilepsy are routinely screened for depression, anxiety and stress and that the children undergo comprehensive psychological assessment.

“In this way the wellbeing of both parents and the child are considered together which is very important given the interaction between both.

“Our study showed that the main predictor of parental health difficulties was child behaviour problems which are often not recognised highlighting the need for support for these difficulties which in turn will help parents.”

Read the SEEN Study here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S152550501730879X