Mothers of epileptic kids at higher risk of depression

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London-based researchers have discovered mothers of children with epilepsy are more likely to be at risk of major depression.

In a study by Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University, researchers analyzed a decade’s worth of data from 356 mothers of children with epilepsy. They found 57 per cent of the mothers were at risk for major depression at some point during the 10-year period. For 20 per cent of the mothers, their depressive state remained unchanged from their child’s diagnosis through each of the five follow-up assessments.

Even when the their child was seizure free for more than five years, most mothers depressive symptoms continued, according to the study.

However, researchers did find that a positive family environment, including supportive nature, extended social support, and satisfaction with family relationships, at the time of diagnosis was consistently linked with better long-term outcomes.

“The results of this study suggest family environment could be a key target for intervention due to its effects on parental, as well as children’s, mental health,” study co-author and Western University PhD candidate Klajdi Puka said in a statement. “We hope these findings will emphasize the importance of going beyond treating the child and focusing on the family as a whole.”

The finding has led the research team to launch a pilot intervention program for both children with epilepsy and their parents to help limit the risk factors for poor long-term mental health. The community-based treatment program is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and will be delivered to 100 families of children with epilepsy. It will focus on mindful awareness, social-emotional learning skills, neuroscience, and positive psychology.

The study, “Prevalence and trajectories of depressive symptoms among mothers of children with newly diagnosed epilepsy: A longitudinal 10-year study,” was recently published in Epilepsia.