The new provisions announced by NHS England mean that partners of expectant and new mothers who suffer from existing mental health conditions such as depression and psychosis will be offered specialist support.
Partners of women who are seriously ill will be offered a range of programmes including peer-support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family and parenting interventions in specialist community perinatal mental health settings.
The perinatal period includes pregnancy and the first year after a child is born.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the NHS “has a role to play in helping support the whole family”.
“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.”
The new announcement follows growing evidence that in the first six months of a child’s life, symptoms of anxiety and depression can be experienced by an estimated one in 10 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 set to cover the whole country by April next year.
Mothers with moderate to severe mental health problems during the perinatal period will be offered evidence-based psychiatric and psychological assessments, and women 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 (MBUs), which will provide specialist care and support to mothers in areas such as Kent and Lancashire.
NHS England also plans to expand the current mother and baby unit bed capacity by 49%, to ensure that there are no more than 160 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.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.