Breaking the Cycle

Working with Our Time, Pro Bono Economics puts a cost to the impact of poor parental mental health

Economics charity Pro Bono Economics has teamed up with Our Time to assess the cost of poor mental health in parents. Its conclusion? Failing to support the children of parents struggling with their mental health could cost the economy a staggering £1.9 billion. And that is just for a single year group of children. 

At Our Time, we were keen to put a “pounds and pence” figure to the impact of parental mental illness if it is not addressed. We knew it would be significant – one in three children have a parent with poor mental health. One in ten live with an adult with severe difficulties. And through our work we see first hand what living with these challenges can mean for families and children. These young people can live with anxiety about their parent’s illness, or feel they are to blame; they might have significant caring responsibilities; they can face the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, which often leads to isolation or bullying; and an unstable home life impacts on learning at school. No wonder, then, that children of parents with poor mental health are three times as likely to develop a mental health condition themselves.

But to see the long-lasting consequences and economic cost of failing to intervene set out so clearly was still shocking. Jon Franklin, Chief Economist at PBE, describes it as “a crisis for society that has long-term ramifications for children today and in the future”. 

“The scale of the problem has not been matched by a nationwide approach that can provide solutions. Up and down the country, children are slipping through the net and are simply not receiving the specialist support they need. It is fuelling a vicious circle of intergenerational poor mental health which is affecting millions of children and poses a significant cost to the UK economy.

However, at Our Time, we know there is a way to tackle this. If these children can be found early, and given the right support, they can go on to live full lives – just like any other child. There needs to be a much more rigorous system of identifying these young people, with comprehensive training for all professionals who work with children, and also in adult mental health services. They need to be able to spot the signs of having a parent with mental illness, and how to support those that do. And there needs to be a step change in the help that is on offer for these families, with tailored provision widely accessible, in communities and in schools.

This is our ambition. We are committed to expanding our network of KidsTime Workshops, our community-based, whole-family interventions. And also Our Time Schools, encompassing PSHE resources and training, and our training programmes for professionals, from teachers to mental health workers. 

This is how we break the cycle.