Nearly half of the people contacting a mental health charity’s helpline about their children are parents of 12 to 16-year-olds, according to the organisation’s latest statistics.
The figures revealed in the YoungMinds Parents Information Service report, showed that 46% of calls to the charity were about children between the ages of 12 and 16, with a quarter (26%) of parents concerned about primary age children (6 to 11-year-olds) and 6% worried about younger children.
Almost a third (31.3%) called the YoungMinds helpline about a serious mental health problems. Of these callers one third (32%) were concerned about their child’s suicidal thoughts while a quarter (25%) of parents had mental health problems themselves.
The charity said most callers wanted support on behaviour management issues, from tips on discipline to coping with disruptive or aggressive behaviour. Parent-child relationships also caused concern, along with anxiety, depression and family breakdown.
The report, which analysed the 2,863 calls taken by the service in 2007-2008, also showed that most of the callers were mothers, with only 8% of calls being made by fathers.
Sarah Brennan, YoungMinds chief executive, said: "Our Parent Information Service aims to provide help and advice to anyone concerned about the mental health of a child or young person.
"We hope that by providing early support on emotional difficulties such as challenging behaviour and family breakdown we can prevent serious mental health problems occurring.
"We also hope to encourage more fathers to get involved in the health and well-being of their children.
"The majority of helpline callers are mothers, and we believe it is vital for fathers to play an active role too. That is why YoungMinds is currently working with fathers’ groups across the country to increase their knowledge and confidence."
The YoungMinds Parents Information Service recently extended its opening hours thanks to funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The helpline now operates between 10am and 4pm Monday-Friday with an evening slot from 6pm to 8pm on Wednesdays.
Calls are handled by qualified advisers who talk to parents about their concerns and provide support and information.
For more complex problems, YoungMinds offers a free one-hour telephone consultation with a qualified mental health practitioner or other professional.
Speaking about the service one caller said: "Excellent information and details of other organisations too. More people should know about your service."
The charity is also piloting new ways of helping parents, including an email inquiry service and an online forum so that parents can give and receive support on mental health issues.
YoungMinds is a national charity that aims to improve the mental health of all children and young people under 25.
(Source: YoungMinds: Mental Health Foundation UK: August 2008)