Men whose partners experience health problems including anxiety, psychosis, or postnatal depression will be offered specialist mental health checks and support
NHS England has announced they will be introducing mental health checks for new and expectant fathers. Partners of pregnant or new mothers who have or are experiencing mental health difficulties such as psychosis, anxiety, or postnatal depression will be offered screening and support via the National Health Service.
Whilst support has been made available to pregnant women and new mother’s, little if any has previously been made available to their partners.
Suffering in silence to be ended through support networks and therapy
The ‘radical initiative’, as described by NHS England, will aim to stop men from being allowed to suffer in silence as many attempt to help their partners through mental health crises, receiving little support themselves.
A variety of options are expected to be made available, including peer support, couples behavioural therapy, family and parenting interventions in community perinatal mental health settings, as well as talking therapies during the perinatal period (which spans the pregnancy and first year following the child’s birth).
Current support and planned changes
At this time, no support is offered through the NHS. Parenting groups such as the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) offer support to both parents, but Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England has said that the NHS should intervene when men might need medical diagnosis and treatment.
Stevens went on to say that the NHS has a role to play in helping support the whole family, and NHS mental health services need to step up and support families at times of extreme stress and anxiety.
This new initiative is set to be laid out in full as part of the NHS long-term plan as part of a planned expansion to services helping pregnant women and mothers. The 10-year plan announced earlier this year is expected to see an extra £2bn in mental health funding for NHS England by 2023-24. This increase, while sizeable compared to the current £12bn spent each year on mental health services across England, has raised concerns as experts have warned this may only be half of what is needed to put mental health spending on par with that of physical health.
Specialist community health teams will be available across England by April next year. These will be able to diagnose and treat women with moderate to severe mental health problems within the first year following the birth of their child, as well as offering advice to those looking to get pregnant who have experienced ill mental health in the past.
Mothers with moderate to severe mental health problems during this perinatal period will be offered evidence-based psychiatric and psychological assessments. Full details are expected to be outlined in the upcoming NHS long-term plan.
The scale of the problem
One in 10 men are thought to experience anxiety or depression during the first year following the birth of their child. Additional stress and distress can be a cause of concern for soon to be or new fathers, as their partner may be one of the one in five women who experience mental health problems during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth.
NHS England’s National Mental Health Directory, Claire Murdoch, said:
“Any form of mental ill health during pregnancy, labour or early parenthood is a huge concern and it doesn’t just disrupt life for mums but also for dads, partners and the wider family.
“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.”
For more information about postnatal depression, talking therapies, and support available, visit Counselling Directory.