Mental health issues across entire family

Mental health issues across entire family

Prescott & Sanderson

Mental health issues across entire family


  1. This is a complex and distressing case.
  2. C has a meaningful relationship with both parents. It is the relationship between E, D and the father which has required most attention both as to why it has deteriorated and whether there is more harm than good in requiring either or both of the girls to engage with the father at this stage and in light of their mental health issues. The mother deposes that she believes the breakdown of the girls’ relationship with the father “has its origin in the [f]ather’s controlling and bullying personality”[49] while the father deposes he is “concerned that the children are at risk while in the mother’s care”.[50]
  3. The father does not believe the current arrangements for E and D are consistent with either girl having a meaningful relationship with him. D is estranged from him. E only spends limited, daytime time with him. However, forcing E to engage further with the father may result in her pushing back and becoming as estranged from him as is the case with D.
  4. The father acknowledges orders for D to spend time with him are not feasible at this stage. At the time of the trial, he had not seen her for two years. There is every indication that her mental state would be negatively impacted by forcing D to see the father.
  5. With regard to C, the father noted his concerns that whilst C may not exhibit anxiety at present, should he remain living with the mother he is in danger of developing similar mental health issues to his sisters in the future. The father would like C to live primarily with him and Ms H but accepts that moving from the mother’s home should be C’s decision given his age and level of maturity.
  6. I accept the evidence of Dr U that the mother and daughters have become enmeshed in a vortex of anxiety. There is a high level of interdependence between the mother, D and E. There is evident collusion between D and her mother, the mother and D, D and E. Each colludes with and reinforces the inappropriate and defensive psychopathological behaviours they exhibit into one gurgling sea of anxiety. In Dr U’s opinion,

[the mother’s] continual reference to her serving as the children’s safe haven attest to the enmeshment and lack of boundaries between herself and the children, those boundaries being poorest in regard to the leakage of anxieties to the children who she speaks to regularly following contact. This has led to the situation where the children have taken on her various projections in regard to [Mr Prescott], and hence their relationship with their father has suffered. Those tendencies in [Ms Sanderson] were observed by [Ms V] who noted her inability to support the children’s relationship with their father, despite her verbal comments to the contrary.
[Ms Sanderson] very much sees herself as a mother and whilst she appears to spend much of her time caring for and playing with the children, the importance of the children having a stable relationship with their father essentially because of her various anxieties is not a secondary consideration … [D’s anxieties] only serve to heighten [Ms Sanderson’s] concerns, thereby completing a feedback loop of what has become a vicious cycle.[51]

  1. Currently, the mother does not acknowledge that she requires psychiatric or psychological treatment. There is one set of clinicians working with E and another set working with D. The current treatment is fragmented. Despite the wealth of medical evidence and opinion, the family is without an appropriately qualified person to oversee and link the therapeutic resources for the girls and the mother. As indicated, it is fortunate for the family that Professor S has agreed to assume some oversight.
  2. Despite the father’s best efforts, he is unable to provide the parental care and support that the daughters need. D’s poor mental health is tragic. The fact that E may be destined to suffer a similar outcome is heart breaking.
  3. The grave conditions of both girls distract attention from the mother’s emotional neediness which appears to me to be all consuming. Her dependence upon the girls (not C) permits the mother to neglect the legitimate needs of the daughters and to eschew treatment which she intuitively or objectively identifies might lead to either girl becoming independent of her.
  4. Changing E’s current living arrangements is likely to significantly impact on the emotional, psychological and mental wellbeing of the children, particularly D and E.
  5. C and E have a good relationship with Mr Prescott at present. The risk to that relationship is highlighted in Ms V’s report and in Dr L’s report. That is, acceding to the father’s application would give rise to a potentially negative impact upon his relationship with E and C. The relationship between the father, E and C, should be safeguarded. It would not be in the children’s best interests nor if I made orders that in any way diminish or reduce or interrupt the relationship bond the father has with C and E.


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