Gretchen is a Senior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration South West Peninsula (PenARC). Her research is focused on improving the mental health and wellbeing of children and families, including parents and particularly parents of children with special needs and disabilities.
Award Title: Mental Health Fellowship
Start Date: 1 April 2022
End Date: 31 March 2024
Location of Research: Exeter/nationwide
Project Title: Support for Parent Carers in England (SPaCE)
Brief Summary: Parent carers of children with special educational needs or disabilities are likely to have high rates of mental health problems and an unmet need for support and treatment. In addition, parent carers are likely to have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. In this NIHR Three Schools-funded project we aim to gain understanding of the prevalence of mental health need, and to map the current pathways to identification, referral, and treatment for parent carers in England.
We will assess prevalence in three complementary analyses. The first will be an examination of mental health problems and changes from pre-pandemic amongst parent carers of children with SEND in the Mental Health of Children and Young People in England (MHCYP) surveys 2017, 2020 and 2021. The second will be an investigation of the mental health of mothers of children with SEND before and during the pandemic using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). The third will be an examination of the association of factors related to the caring role and mental health utilising survey data from the NIHR-funded Parent Carer Wellbeing Study.
We will map pathways to identification, referral and support for mental health problems in parent carers in England; triangulating reports from parent carers, and professionals in social care, primary care, and children’s services. Qualitative interviews with parent carers will be conducted to learn about their experiences accessing support for their mental health.
We hope that this project will provide information about the need and access to mental health services for parent carers, including the impact of the pandemic and regional variation. We plan for this project to lead to further research to develop and test strategies to overcome barriers to accessing evidence-based mental health treatment for parent carers with mental health problems.
Methods: This study will examine the prevalence of mental health conditions in parent carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities and changes from pre-pandemic in two existing datasets: the Mental Health in Children and Young People surveys and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. It will also explore factors related to mental health for parent carers using data from the Parent Carer Wellbeing Survey. Finally, a mapping study will be carried out to examine and map pathways to accessing mental health services and support through social care and primary care for parent carers using a survey and interviews of parent carers and a survey of health care professionals and commissioners.
Benefits anticipated: This project will provide information about the need and access to mental health services for parent carers. This will include information about factors that predict mental health problems, which may help professionals to identify parent carers who may be more likely to need assessment or support. It will also provide information about regional variation across England, including details about where the need may be the greatest. It also aims to provide examples of good practice in terms of detection and treatment, both from surveys and interviews describing the experiences of parent carers, and from information gathered from professionals in the mapping study. The hope is that this project will lead to further research to develop and test strategies to overcome barriers to accessing evidence-based mental health treatment for parent carers with mental health problems.