Health Minister Robin Swann has approved funding for the development of a new specialist perinatal mental health services for the region.
The Minister said: “I am delighted to announce the approved funding to establish a new specialist perinatal mental health community service model for Northern Ireland.”
At present, mental health support for new or expectant mothers is provided in the community through general mental health services with only Belfast Trust providing limited specialist perinatal mental health services for the region.
This new service will provide new multidisciplinary community perinatal mental health teams in each of the five Health and Social Care Trusts and will include a new stepped care model to ensure regional consistency. Perinatal mental health community teams will provide wrap around maternity and mental health care to women in the perinatal period experiencing mental health difficulties.
The cost of the new specialist perinatal mental health services is estimated at £4.7million per year. The psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic should not be underestimated. Women in the perinatal period are particularly vulnerable, not least due to the uncertainty that the virus poses for the health of both them and their infant and so investment in this important Mental Health service is very much needed and welcomed.
The Minister commented: “Since becoming Health Minister I have repeatedly stated that improving mental health services, including perinatal mental health, is one of my top priorities. Addressing perinatal mental health services for the region was included as an action in the Mental Health Action plan and continued commitment to this is included in the new Mental Health Strategy which was launched for public consultation in December.
“My officials have been working closely with the Public Health Agency to finalise a business case for specialist community perinatal mental health services and I am delighted to approve this much needed service that for too long, women in Northern Ireland have gone without.”
Commenting on the announcement, Lindsay Robinson, Have you seen that girl? Maternal Mental Health Campaigner said: “I want to say a huge thank you to the Health Minister and Department of Health officials on this momentous day.
“As a mum with lived experience of perinatal mental illness, I am absolutely thrilled and very relieved that these specialist perinatal services will finally be made available here. Campaigning for these services, for the last five years, and now knowing they will be delivered, brings me (and so many others mums) so much joy.
“Some of the darkest and most difficult days of my life would have been transformed had access to these been available, I know personally the difference they can and will make for mums, infants and families.”
The Minister concluded by thanking all those who have been involved in developing the new service model. He said: “Your hard work and commitment to improving perinatal mental health services in Northern Ireland has been instrumental in getting us to this point. New and expectant mothers will have access to the best possible mental health care and the new service will ensure the best health outcomes for both them and their infants.”