New fathers will be checked for post-natal depression as part of an NHS shake-up ‘because too little attention is paid to men’
- Men will be offered peer support, couples therapy and parenting interventions
- Chief executive of NHS England argues men should not suffer in silence
- Depression affects one in ten men in the first six months of being parents
New fathers and dads-to-be will be offered mental health checks as part of an NHS England shake-up of perinatal care.
The partners of expectant mothers who suffer from depression, anxiety or psychosis will be offered peer support, couples therapy and parenting interventions.
Although it is well recognised up to one in five mothers endure symptoms of post-natal depression, the NHS argues little attention is paid to men.
Yet, research suggests as many men can be affected by the condition – and having to care for a partner with mental health issues can prove more difficult when a baby enters the world.
New fathers will be offered mental health checks as part of an NHS England shake-up (stock)
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the health service ‘has a role to play in helping support the whole family’.
He added: ‘These days dads and partners are rightly expected to be more hands-on and NHS mental health services also need to step up and support families at times of extreme stress and anxiety.’
Parenting groups, such as the National Childbirth Trust, offer support to both parents, but Mr Stevens argues the NHS should intervene when fathers are struggling.
‘At what should be one of the happiest moments of our lives, caring for a partner suffering mental ill health when a new baby arrives is a difficult and often lonely experience,’ he said.
‘Alongside the backup and friendship of other new parents in NCT and other groups, the NHS has a role to play in helping support the whole family.’
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Partners of women with mental health conditions will be offered a range of programmes including peer-support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family and parenting interventions.
The new announcement follows growing evidence that in the first six months of a child’s life, symptoms of anxiety and depression are experienced by around one in ten fathers.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said: ‘Any form of mental ill health during pregnancy, labour or early parenthood is a huge concern and it doesn’t just disrupt life for mums but also for dads, partners and the wider family.
‘The NHS has made huge strides forward in improving mental health care for new mums and ensuring their partners are properly supported too is the next logical step.’
The NHS also plans to expand its specialist community perinatal mental health services for women with new teams that are set to cover all of England by April.
Some 9,000 women are expected to have received treatment this year.
The perinatal period includes pregnancy and the first year after a child is born.
Mothers with moderate-to-severe mental health problems during the perinatal period will also be offered evidence-based psychiatric and psychological assessments.
And those with current or past severe mental illnesses will be given pre-conception advice.
Under the new scheme, the NHS will open four eight-bedded mother and baby units, which will provide specialist care and support to women in Kent, Devon, Lancashire and East Anglia.
NHS England also plans to expand the mother and baby unit bed capacity by 49 per cent to ensure there are more beds for severely mentally unwell mothers to receive specialist care with their babies across England.
The plan will be outlined in full in the forthcoming NHS long-term plan.
Dr Giles Berrisford, the associate national clinical director for perinatal mental health for NHS England, said: ‘The expansion of perinatal mental health services with specialised community and inpatient beds helps to ensure mums with severe perinatal mental illnesses receive the help they need, when they need it.
‘It is essential to support those people who care for these mums the most – their partners. This targeted support will help to achieve this.’
WHAT IS POSTNATAL DEPRESSION?
Postnatal depression is a form of the mental-health condition that affects more than one in 10 women in the UK and US within a year of giving birth.
As many men can be affected as women, research suggests.
Many parents feel down, teary and anxious within the first two weeks of having a child, which is often called the ‘baby blues’.
But if symptoms start later or last longer, they may be suffering from postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression is just as serious as others form of the mental-health disorder.
- Persistent sadness
- Lack of enjoyment or interest in the wider world
- Struggling to bond with your baby
- Withdrawing from others
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Frightening thoughts, such as hurting your baby
Sufferers should not wait for their symptoms to just go away.
Instead they should recognise that it is not their fault they are depressed and it does not make them a bad parent.
If you or your partner may be suffering, talk to your GP or health visitor.
Treatments can include self-help, such as talking to loved ones, resting when you can and making time to do things you enjoy. Therapy may also be prescribed.
In severe cases where other options have not helped, antidepressants may be recommended. Doctors will prescribe ones that are safe to take while breastfeeding.
Postnatal depression’s cause is unclear, however, it is more common in those with a history of mental-health problems.
Lack of support from loved ones, a poor relationship with the partner and a life-changing event, such as bereavement, can also raise the risk.
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