Perinatal mental health campaigns
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of over 70 national organisations, for whom improving perinatal mental health is central to the work that they do. I serve as a member, through my role with the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership. Currently, there are 5 MMHA projects:
The MMHA campaign #everyonesbusiness (funded by Comic Relief) calls for all women throughout the UK, who experience perinatal mental health problems, to receive the care they and their families need, wherever and whenever they need it. The campaign has launched two major reports: a mapping of all perinatal mental health services across the UK; and the economic impact of perinatal mental illness. An independent review of that work confirms what a major impact the campaigns have had on perinatal mental health.
1a. Perinatal mental health service mapping
MMHA launched the #everyonesbusiness campaign on 8th July 2014, with a mapping report that highlights the inconsistency of services nationally. Pregnant women and new mothers in almost half of the UK do not have access to specialist mental health services, potentially leaving them and their babies at risk.
The maps were updated in April 2018, showing what progress has been made. This is very promising but there's a long way to go!
1b. Economic impact of perinatal mental illness
The second #everyonesbusiness report, ‘The costs of perinatal mental health problems’, was published on October 20th 2014. Commissioned by MMHA, and undertaken by the London School of Economics (in collaboration with the Centre for Mental Health), the report focused on the economic impact of perinatal mental illness. It was reported that failure to fully address perinatal mental health problems carries a total economic and social long-term cost to society of over £8 billion for each one-year cohort of births in the UK.
Launching officially in Parliament on Tuesday 21st October 2014, the report found that the costs of mental health problems among women in pregnancy are far greater than previously thought. Perhaps more crucially, the cost to the public sector of perinatal mental health problems is five times greater than it would cost to provide the services that are needed throughout the UK.
I gave a radio interview about this: Radio Solent (Dorset) interview
This MMHA project supports local leaders in four areas of England (Blackpool, Southend, Haringey and Gloucestershire) to improve care and quality of life for mums with mental health problems during pregnancy and the first year of life, and their babies.
This MMHA project takes a multi-disciplinary approach, focusing on raising awareness, developing educational resources for GPs, influencing curriculum and promoting collaborative working with other professions including midwives and health visitors.
This MMHA project involves establishing expertly trained mental health midwives and creating adequate local care pathways, supporting training and championing perinatal mental health within maternity care.
MMHA supports the Institute of Health Visiting initiative of creating 600 Health Visitor Perinatal Mental Health Champions, trained in identifying early recognition of perinatal mental health problems, how to make a differential diagnosis, and preventative and treatment strategies.
1001 Critical Days is an All Party Parliamentary Group initiative that aims to make sure that all children have the very best start in life (1001 days represents the period from pregnancy to the child's second birthday). The extent to which perinatal mental health is central to these aims was reinforced in the Building Great Britons report that was launched at Parliament in February 2015. I was delighted to be at that launch. We relaunched, in the presence of many more MPs in December 2015. A further reboot was announced in July 2018.
It is my honour to be a member of a national birth trauma network, via Make Birth Better. One of the many aims is to work on campaigns that aim to do precisely that. We are a group of professionals, academics, and parents with lived experience of birth trauma.
Royal College of General Practitioners
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have shown a great commitment to emphasising the importance of perinatal mental health. Given that GPs are often the first point of contact, it is essentially that they are properly equipped to deal with the unique features (and potential consequences) of mental illness in the perinatal period. In March 2015, the RCGP published a report: Falling through the gaps: Perinatal mental health and general practice. One of the major points made by this report was that many GPs feel they do not have the skills, expertise or confidence to recognise, support or treat perinatal women with mental illness effectively. There is a clear need for additional training and support here.
In the Spring 2015 Budget, George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer) announced that £75 million would be allocated to fund perinatal mental health over the next 5 years. This may seem small, but it is a great start and it would not have happened at all had it not been for these campaigns. You can read the official response to the Budget announcement from MMHA here. Just prior to Budget 2015, the NCT (the UK's largest charity for parents) wrote to the Chancellor, urging more funding for perinatal mental health (see here); on behalf the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, I was a co-signatory on that letter.