Today is the third day of Maternal Mental Health Week in the UK and this is one of a series of posts discussing perinatal mental illness here at Blossom & Cave.
Suicide is the biggest killer of women in the first year after childbirth
That is a shocking statistic I know, and yet it’s true. It is estimated that one in five mums will struggle with their mental health in pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth. A recent study by NCT estimates that the figure is closer to one in two. That is HALF of all new mums.
Why is this such a big issue?
Despite perinatal mental illness being fully treatable, early intervention and comprehensive treatment are key. Yet, in many places around the UK, very few women have access to mental health services and those that do often face long waiting lists.
In Northern Ireland, 80% of women have no access to specialist care. In Wales, 71% of women have no access to specialist care. England and Scotland are improving but there is still a long way to go.
Without these vital services, women and their families are suffering needlessly for long periods of time. As a mum, I struggled for many years as I fought to get the help I needed to recover. We are really letting women down.
What can we do?
In Northern Ireland, I and a few other mums decided that enough was enough and we began to put together a conference bringing together parents, health professionals, politicians, and the media to explore how we could create change. Others have been involved in lobbying their local government. Some have even been to Westminster to plead the case of women in their areas.
But what can you do? There are lots of ways to get involved in creating change:
- Set up a support group in your area for families who are struggling
- Reach out to a new mum friend or family member and lend a listening ear
- Write to your local politicians asking for funding for services
- Get involved at your local maternity unit – most have liaison committees that members of the public can sit on to affect change
- Share your stories and help to break the stigma
We really aren’t doing enough for parents and it’s time that changed. Every mum and dad deserve the chance to enjoy their babies and their lives without the shadow of mental illness.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead
Michelle is the author of Pangs: Surviving Motherhood and Mental Illness, a book which outlines her journey through perinatal mental illness and also includes a self-help guide and list of resources to help others with their recovery. You can buy the book here or on Amazon.