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London-based study shows mothers with epileptic children have a higher risk of depression

Are you a Calgary mother looking for postnatal support? .
Are you a Calgary mother looking for postnatal support? . File / Getty Images

Researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University have completed a study that shows mothers of epileptic children have a higher risk of poor mental health and well-being.

The research included 356 mothers of children with epilepsy and is part of a larger project that studied family outcomes over a ten-year period. It found that 57 per cent of those mothers were at risk for major depressive disorder at some point during the ten-year follow-up.

They also found that 20 per cent of mothers were at risk for major depressive disorder at the time of their child’s diagnosis and at each follow-up assessment.

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“This study shows that mothers of children with epilepsy are at risk for depression and that depressive symptoms often persist over the course of a decade,” said Dr. Kathy Nixon Speechley, scientist at Children’s Health Research Institute, and professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University.

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Researchers found that a positive family environment at the time of diagnosis was consistently associated with better long-term outcomes. Family environment was assessed using factors like supportive nature, extended social support and satisfaction with family relationships.

The child’s cognitive problems, types of seizures and mothers’ age and education were also associated with mothers’ depression over time.

“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,” adds Klajdi Puka, a PhD candidate at Western University who conducted this research under the supervision of Dr. Speechley.

“We hope these findings will emphasize the importance of going beyond treating the child and focusing on the family as a whole.”

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The research team is now expanding on their work on the prognosis and risk factors for poor long-term mental health by piloting an intervention program for both children with epilepsy and their parents.

The research team is the first to study families of children with epilepsy long term.