On Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day (6 May), the NSPCC highlights rising concern that many new parents may be ‘suffering in silence’ during lockdown.
The Institute was pleased to support an NSPCC virtual roundtable looking at the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on new mothers’ mental health, and the risk of potential long-term consequences on babies’ health and development. The panel said their services had adapted to support parents digitally, but they shared concerns about the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on mothers and babies.
The NSPCC reported an increase of 28% in calls to its helpline about parental mental health in the first three weeks of lockdown.
Before the pandemic, up to one in five mothers and one in 10 fathers experienced perinatal mental health problems, the charity said.
Eileen O’Sullivan, a specialist health visitor in Warwickshire, said:
“Supporting mothers digitally can be challenging and there is a concern that some may be suffering in silence, too scared to share how they are really feeling over video.
“I am also seeing that my colleagues are being extra vigilant because we don’t want to miss anything.”
The NSPCC cited data from the Institute of Health Visiting, which found in some areas of England at least 50% of health visitors, including some from perinatal mental health and parent-infant teams, were redeployed into other health services in the initial period of the lockdown.
The NSPCC is urging the Government to ensure support is provided to parents as the country comes out of lockdown, and to come up with a plan to rebuild health visiting and perinatal services after the crisis.
Andrew Fellowes, public affairs manager at the NSPCC, said:
“At the NSPCC we know that, if undetected and untreated, perinatal mental health problems can have a devastating impact on women, partners and babies, both immediately but also long after the COVID-19 situation has passed.
“It is imperative that families continue to have access to services during the lockdown so that mental health problems can be identified and specialist support provided if needed.”
The iHV continues to support health visitors, our perinatal mental health champions and specialist health visitors in perinatal and infant mental health to deliver their services to families who may be adversely affected by the lockdown, particularly with respect to safeguarding and mental health issues. We have produced specific guidance to help which can be found in our COVID-19 (coronavirus) guidance for health professionals webpage: https://iHV.org.uk/COVID-19