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Visions Journal

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

A complete resource for maintaining a healthy family

Joanne Nicholson, PhD; Alexis D. Henry, ScD; Jonathan C. Clayfield, MA; and Susan M. Philips

Review by Lyne Brindamour MSW, RSW

Reprinted from "Parenting" issue of Visions Journal, 2004, 2 (2), p. 51

Parenting Well When You’re Depressed is a practical book. The content is sensitive and respectful, and the issues explored are significant in people’s lives. The selection of topics reflects the existing research, but is also based on the experiences of parents, family members, service providers and policy makers. Although the authors address the issues of parents who have depression, the book can easily apply to parents with any mental illness, or to all parents in general. Most parents do not have all of the answers. All through the book, parents are reminded that parenting is difficult whether you have depression or not.

The authors obviously understand the challenges of families living with depression. As they say so astutely in the introduction, the range of skills among parents who are depressed is not so different in its diversity from those of parents who don’t have depression. However, parents who have depression are sometimes harder on themselves and may have very high expectations of their performance. Throughout the book, the authors reinforce the message that parents with depression can be good parents and that everyone has strengths.

Parenting Well When You’re Depressed is well organized, and written in a way that is easy to read. It’s divided into eleven chapters, each having its own significant theme. Parents can read the chapter that seems the most interesting, useful, practical, helpful and relevant to them. The book is part self-help and part workbook, providing worksheets, such as a budgeting worksheet and a shopping list. I tried the budgeting worksheet for myself and found it quite helpful. The book also helps parents draw up action plans for dealing with various situations, such as dealing with potential relapses, handling crisis situations, and planning for child care in the event of the need to go into the hospital.

This book not only talks about treatment, therapy and medication, but also about lifestyle choices. It does not forget about other important things such as family-of-origin issues, connections with good friends, diet, exercise, play and leisure, getting a good nights’ sleep and spirituality.

Talking about mental illness to children is an especially difficult issue for parents, which the book addresses by offering a number of creative suggestions for initiating a discussion. The authors suggest ideas such as using audio cassettes, videos, writing letters and drawing pictures, so that parents can choose what would be most comfortable for them and their children. Another important topic the book addresses is asking questions. The authors remind us that asking questions is important, and provide some examples of questions to ask doctors, psychiatrists and/or attorneys.

The book is very comprehensive and covers all the bases. If there was one thing I would have appreciated more emphasis on, it is relationships with partners and the exploration of couple issues. When parents have a difficult or stressful time with each other, it usually affects all other areas of their lives, and may contribute to discomfort and tension in the home for all family members.

Overall, I really like this book and strongly recommend it. Knowledge is a powerful tool and Parenting Well When You’re Depressed provides a lot of information.

Feeling confident in one’s ability to parent is a challenging task for all parents whether you are depressed or not. Being depressed certainly adds to the difficulty, but the authors have provided a wealth of information that may make it a little bit easier to face those parental challenges.

Being prepared is also a powerful tool. If you are prepared and organized, difficult situations can be made less stressful when they do arise. This resource book helps parents become active participants in their own parenting journey.

About the Reviewer

Lyne is a famiy counsellor with Family Services of the North Shore


The book may be available in your local bookstore or library. If not, it is available to order from,, or

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