Health Minister Robin Swann, pictured above, with campaigner Lindsay Robinson, has approved funding for the development of a new specialist perinatal mental health services in Northern Ireland.

The Minister said: “I am delighted to announce the approved funding to establish a new specialist perinatal mental health community service model for Northern Ireland.”

At present, mental health support for new or expectant mothers is provided in the community through general mental health services with only Belfast Trust providing limited specialist perinatal mental health services for the region. 

This new service will provide new multidisciplinary community perinatal mental health teams in each of the five Health and Social Care Trusts and will include a new stepped care model to ensure regional consistency. Perinatal mental health community teams will provide wrap around maternity and mental health care to women in the perinatal period experiencing mental health difficulties.

The cost of the new specialist perinatal mental health services is estimated at £4.7million per year. 

The Minister said: “Since becoming Health Minister I have repeatedly stated that improving mental health services, including perinatal mental health, is one of my top priorities. Addressing perinatal mental health services for the region was included as an action in the Mental Health Action plan and continued commitment to this is included in the new Mental Health Strategy which was launched for public consultation in December. 

“My officials have been working closely with the Public Health Agency to finalise a business case for specialist community perinatal mental health services and I am delighted to approve this much needed service that for too long, women in Northern Ireland have gone without.”

Maternal Mental Health Campaigner Lindsay Robinson said: “I want to say a huge thank you to the Health Minister and Department of Health officials on this momentous day.

“As a mum with lived experience of perinatal mental illness, I am absolutely thrilled and very relieved that these specialist perinatal services will finally be made available here. 

“Campaigning for these services, for the last five years, and now knowing they will be delivered, brings me (and so many others mums) so much joy. 

“Some of the darkest and most difficult days of my life would have been transformed had access to these been available, I know personally the difference they can and will make for mums, infants and families.” 

• Lindsay was guest editor of an issue of VIEW which looked at perinatal mental health – https://viewdigital.org/issue-47-we-need-to-talk-about-maternal-mental-health/

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