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Parents’ mental health impaired when children are seriously ill

Parents whose children need intensive care treatment suffer clinically significant impairment of their mental health, researchers say

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Having a child receiving intensive care treatment impairs parents’ mental health to a clinically significant degree, a study has found.

A total of 196 parents of paediatric intensive care survivors completed questionnaires two days after discharge, assessing resilience, perceived stress and emotions experienced during admission.

They were questioned again at three and six months after discharge, with the main outcomes looking at anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Interventions to maintain resilience

At six months, 23% of parents reported clinically significant levels of symptoms of PTSD, 21% reported moderate to severe anxiety, and 9% reported moderate to severe depression. These rates were similar to three months earlier.

Resilience is a strong indirect protective factor for parental mental health, the study by Spanish and UK researchers found.

Interventions to maintain resilience and decrease perceived stress levels could improve parents’ mental health outcomes following their child’s intensive care treatment, researchers said.

Rodriguez-Rey R et al (2018) Prediction of parental posttraumatic stress, anxiety and depression after a child's critical hospitalization. Journal of Critical Care. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2018.02.006

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