Partners are also in need of support…
Last month The Guardian published this article about the NHS plans to offer Mental Health checks and support to expectant partners of mothers who have experienced ‘health problems’. I know this article is a little old, but the headline caught my eye and made me think about how much (or little) we campaign for the support of the partners of expectant mothers/mothers. I read this version form the Guardian:
First impressions are that this looks great! Finally the partners of mothers/mums-to-be are being recognised for the essential role they play in the wellness of a family unit. It seems long overdue for this role to be identified formally and given the clinical support from the NHS that is deserved. Claire Murdoch (NHS England’s national mental health director) says “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 support to be on offer includes peer support, behavioural couples therapy, psychological talking therapy and parenting interventions in perinatal settings. The plan is for this to be rolled out by specialist teams across the country in April this year.
This looks great! Well, it’s a start… I decided to look at the original statement from NHS England (original statement form NHSE here or click on image below):
Firstly (and I’m afraid annoyingly) it refers to fathers instead of partners, completely disregarding the increasing numbers of same-sex couples who have children. Okay, bugbear expressed, if you actually delve a little deeper, it looks like partners are only to be offered support if the mother herself suffers from a mental health illness such as anxiety, psychosis and PND (postnatal depression) and is ‘seriously unwell’ with said conditions. Hence, I fear, that access to this extra support will only be available for a select few who need it the most. And I can totally understand why… This is indicative of the current NHS climate with limitations on valuable services due to chronic under-funding, under-staffing and a lack of resources.
Overall, although the prospect of additional support is promising, I feel the article headline is a little misleading as it implies that all mothers and all partners could be eligible. Unfortunately this may lead to an unrealistic expectation for a service that cannot (or will not) be delivered to everyone.
Hopefully, we will be able to see this service developed so that it can be offered to all mothers and all partners irrespective of the mothers Mental Health status in the not too distant future. Let’s see!