For the last several weeks I’ve been working on a maternal mental health issue of VIEW. It has been challenging and stimulating in equal measure.
A couple of years ago I met maternal mental health campaigner Lindsay Robinson in her home in Belfast. She had contacted me about doing an interview with her about her own battle with postnatal depression. I was immensely impressed with her resolve and determination and her willingness to become an advocate for better support for mother and infants.
After that initial meeting, I met Lindsay several times at events she had helped organise. From those meetings the idea of a themed edition of VIEW, which would look at maternal mental health, was born. The Maternal Mental Health Alliance – an umbrella body in the UK – leant its invaluable support to the concept.
I am delighted that so many women shared their stories with VIEW. I am shocked by the fact that there is no mother and baby unit on the whole island of Ireland and specialist services are really poor in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK.
Why is it that women who play a key role in shaping future generations have been so poorly served by successive governments? It’s time for mental well-being to stop being treated as the Cinderella of the health service. Too many women have been allowed to suffer inadequate treatment.
We also owe the creation of a better maternal mental service to those mothers who have taken their own lives because of postnatal depression and their desperate battle to seek help.
The tide may be turning though. I recently attended the first Maternal Mental Health conference held in Northern Ireland. Hundreds of women and a handful of men met at Riddel Hall, Belfast, to urge the implementation of better support services.
VIEW backs their demand.
• The articles in this issue which mention the impact on children is not intended to make mums who may already not be feeling well, feel any worse. These are increased risk factors aimed at policy makers who must take these into account and be held accountable for any gaps in service provision. Mums do the best they can with or without mental health conditions, even in the most challenging circumstances
• If you are a mum who is currently experiencing any form of mental health distress either during pregnancy or the first year after childbirth, it is important also not to despair at the current shortfall of specialist perinatal mental health services. It is important to speak to your GP or other health professional and you can find the links to support organisations here: https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/resources/mums-and-families/