On World Maternal Mental Health Day and during UK Maternal Mental Awareness Week 2019, the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) is delighted to be part of PATH – a newly EU-funded project which will enable women, families and healthcare professionals to prevent, identify and successfully manage mild and moderate perinatal mental health issues.

Becoming a new parent should be an exciting time – however, for up to one in five women this isn’t the case. Perinatal mental illnesses (PMI), such as postnatal depression, are not always recognised and carry a long-term cost to society of £8.1 billion1 for each one-year cohort of births or approximately £74,000 per mother and child.

This cross-border initiative involves thirteen partners from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. Partners from the UK include the Health and Europe Centre as the Lead Partner, Plymouth and District MIND, Southampton City Council, Kent County Council, Kent & Medway NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust as well as the Institute of Health Visiting. PATH has been awarded more than €5 million of European funding for this €8.5 million partnership.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said:

“Many mothers suffer from perinatal mental illness following birth and up to a year after, of which a majority may not be receiving all the support they need.

“The PATH project will deliver a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of and de-stigmatise PMI and promote prepared parenting, reaching a total of 600,000 people across the 2Seas area.”

“Through this project we will produce a suite of online resources and face-to-face training for health professionals in order to increase their confidence in recognising PMI symptoms and providing appropriate care for mothers and fathers. Alongside this will be resources for employers, helping them to support the return to work of new mums.”

PATH will prepare parents pre-birth for their new role and help them avoid or lessen the impact of possible PMI. The project will also improve the skills of healthcare professionals equipping them to address PMI confidently and effectively. PATH will innovatively design, deliver and implement new, durable services both online and face-to-face, aiming to increase recognition and prevention of PMI and support new families’ mental wellbeing which will, in turn, benefit their children.

PATH will also develop a new online multi-media international support hub, a course of support sessions for 4000 new families in mixed groups of pre-pregnant/pregnant/parenthood and a ground-breaking new model of holistic family support. This model will include peer supporter training and a network of intergenerational community support groups to increase recognition and understanding of PMI and enable greater community support to new families.

1 LSE and Centre for Mental Health – The Costs of Perinatal Mental Health Problems Report summary (Oct 2014) – Annette Bauer, Michael Parsonage, Martin Knapp, Valentina Iemmi & Bayo Adelaja