Long-term illness and mood

Any long-term illness can cause anxiety and low mood 

Understandably, children with a long-term illness can sometimes end up feeling depressed, anxious or have difficulty sleeping. It can quickly become a vicious circle as the low mood or anxiety have a “knock-on effect” on their illness. Anxiety, for example, can cause physical symptoms such as feeling sick, sleeping badly or feeling very tired.

The importance of managing the psychological effects of long-term physical illness is becoming more widely understood and accepted. Many hospitals have psychologists for certain conditions such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis or chronic fatigue syndrome. It might be helpful to look at what you and your child can do to help your child’s mood, rather than only focusing on the physical health problem. This might be practical things like looking at food, exercise and sleep as well as psychological support. Family therapy can be helpful as it is often hard for parents and siblings as well. 

What help is there for families?

Family therapy is sometimes offered via a local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, or via a local charity. If your child is an in-patient there may be a parent peer support group or you could start one if not. It is also worth looking at free Parenting groups provided by your local city council or local charities e.g in Bristol, the charity Off The Record has a parent group. Our pages on anxiety and low mood might be also useful for your child (or yourself)

Chronic physical illness and the effects on mental health From the Royal College of Psychiatry with some useful links and a couple of real-life stories
Chronic fatigue- helping my child get better from the Royal College of Psychiatry
Coping with Chronic Fatigue from the Bath Royal United Hospital- lots of resources like activity diaries, being well at school, exam stress, learning challenges, and more
Coping with pain- leaflet for young people
Chronic illness and children This is a US website so the resources aren’t relevant for UK parents but the advice is sensible. It is written by a parent who has a child with long-standing ill health. 
Advice on parenting disabled children: also useful for parents of children with other long-term conditions
Wellbeing toolkit A sheet of suggestions for mini steps to take to improve well-being: can be helpful to break things down in this way as otherwise, it can seem overwhelming.