Despite the stalemate in Stormont, all political parties in Northern Ireland have co-signed a ground-breaking Consensus Statement, drafted as part of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance Everyone’s Business campaign, committing to close the gap in specialist mental health provision for women during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth.
England, Scotland and Wales have faced similar challenges with their specialist perinatal mental health services, but in recent years each have seen significant improvements due to specific and targeted investment. While stakeholders in Northern Ireland have shown support in principal, until now a formal commitment had not been made.
- Women and families in 80% of Northern Ireland cannot access specialist perinatal mental health community services and there is no Mother and Baby Unit in Northern Ireland.
- All political parties in Northern Ireland have now officially signed a historic statement agreeing to work together to change this.
- The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is calling on the parties to unlock urgently needed funding for women and families requiring an inpatient Mother and Baby Unit and specialist community services in every Health Trust.
- Untreated perinatal mental illnesses can have a wide range of effects on the mental and physical health of women, their children, partners and significant others.
- In severe cases, perinatal mental illness can be life-threatening: suicide is a leading cause of death for women in the UK during the perinatal period.
- The economic cost to society of not effectively treating perinatal mental illness far outweighs the cost of providing appropriate services.
- If perinatal mental health problems were identified and treated quickly and effectively, these serious and often life-changing human and economic costs could be avoided.
The MMHA – a UK-wide coalition of over 90 organisations including the Institute of Health Visiting – together with 18 Northern Ireland-based organisations, including NSPCC NI and AWARE, welcomes the parties’ commitment to deliver life-saving perinatal mental health services in Northern Ireland.