When my daughter was born I experienced anxiety. Which is not just worrying. For me it was a physical experience of horror and dread. Like a train was running through me, shaking my foundations every minute of every day.
It was exhausting, so I then felt guilty about having no energy to play with or enjoy spending time with my daughter. This triggered depression and low mood.
I spent 5 weeks staying in the Mother and Baby Unit, which is part of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Being there allowed me to explore those feelings, gave me time and space to rest. The psychiatrist helped me get used to medication, which I still take. The nursery nurses helped me care for my baby, and did it for me when I couldn’t. The nurses talked me through the low points.
My care was good. I was in contact with service during my pregnancy, when I sensed something wasn’t quite right. I had community care until my daughter was aged 1.
Whilst I acknowledge that there are good services out there, with fantastic midwives, health visitors, GPs, peer supporters and counsellors, I am angry that there are women and families in Scotland who do not have access to this care. Who are simply prescribed medication by their busy GP, and put on a waiting list for CBT. Their relationships can suffer, the mental health of their children, partner and family can suffer, and it’s not the mother’s fault. Or the child’s fault. Or the family’s fault.
It’s the fault of those who make decisions about spending and ring-fencing money for Perinatal Mental Health. That investment would be in the future of everyone: children and families. It would save future expenditure and help families to build relationships and resilience, instead of fire-fighting later on in life.
NSPCC and Maternal Mental Health Scotland produced a report in 2015: Getting It Right For Mothers And Babies
Maternal Mental Health Alliance produced campaign maps in 2015: Maternal Mental Health Alliance
We know where the gaps are.
A Managed Clinical Network has been set up, and is “mapping and gapping” perinatal mental health services in Scotland. The Scottish Government have said that no decision will be made on funding for three years, until after the first phase of this MCN. In these three years, one third of families who need help with mental health will not get it.
This isn’t good enough.