Let's Get Mothers With Mental Health Problems Out Of Hiding

29/06/2017 14:22

Postnatal depression's a hot topic these days and websites, newspapers and magazines are full of articles about women going through hell and high water to get their illness treated.

A common problem is that many women hide their symptoms and desperately try to get on with looking after their baby while feeling so low they don't feel like getting out of bed in the morning.

It's hardly surprising that some women hide their problems - nagging away at the back of many mums' minds is the nightmare that people will think they're not able to look after their baby properly. And that anxiety can make matters ten times worse.

At NCT, we've just launched our Hidden Half campaign, so called because our research has found that nearly half of new mothers' mental health problems did not get picked up by a doctor or other health professional. Our aim is to make it easier for women to get the treatment they need.

We've identified the six-week postnatal check-up as a key opportunity for doctors and midwives to find and treat maternal mental illnesses. Many women told us that they didn't feel able to disclose their problems so we're calling for better funding and systems so that more mental health issues are picked up by GPs.

My view is that GPs are amazing and it's not surprising that mental health problems are missed given how much pressure they're under. For a GP to try and cover the baby's and the mum's physical health and try to ascertain how a mum is feeling emotionally in a standard ten minute appointment is too much to ask. And some women reported there wasn't enough time, some simply weren't asked how they were feeling at all, and some thought their doctor didn't seem interested or sympathetic.

We want to see specific funding for the six-week postnatal check so that women get a full appointment about their own health, alongside the appointment for their baby. And we want to see better training and guidance for GPs to draw out these issues where mums are scared to admit to them.

The good news is that starting to talk about mental illness is often a first step to recovery. So a key message of our campaign is 'don't suffer in silence'. If you don't feel you can open up to a health professional, try and raise the subject with a friend or family member.

Once a mental health problem is out in the open, there's often a range of ways of dealing with it including counselling, support groups and medication. It's extremely rare for women to have to be hospitalised or have their baby taken away. And our research found the vast majority of women who received treatment said it helped them.

We'd love people to join our campaign and share their stories, which can really help other women to open up about their feelings. Please feel free to let your friends know about what we're doing and share our Twitter and Facebook messages.

We're determined to get postnatal mental illness out of hiding and bring about real change so that fewer women end up suffering in silence.

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