New fathers are to be offered mental health checks in a bid to support families. Under the plans unveiled by NHS England, partners of pregnant women and new mothers who are themselves suffering from anxiety, depression or more severe disorders such as psychosis will be automatically offered a comprehensive mental health assessment and sign-posted to professional support if needed.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director 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."
“We want to give every family the best possible start in life and this will help do that.”
One in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy and the first year after birth and one in 10 men experience anxiety and depression symptoms in the first six months after the birth of a baby.
A range of help will be offered to expectant fathers experiencing mental health problems such as peer-support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family and parenting interventions in specialist community perinatal mental health settings or referred to a leading psychological talking therapy programme.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said: “At what should be one of the happiest moments of our lives, caring for a partner suffering mental ill health when a new baby arrives is a difficult and often lonely experience. Alongside the backup and friendship of other new parents in NCT and other groups, the NHS has a role to play in helping support the whole family. These days dads and partners are rightly expected to be more hands on and NHS mental health services also need to step up and support families at times of extreme stress and anxiety.”
NHS England is also increasing support with specialist community perinatal mental health teams set to cover the whole country by April next year, offering evidence-based psychiatric and psychological assessments and treatment for women with moderate to severe mental health problems during the perinatal period.
NHS England also plans to expand the current mother and baby unit bed capacity by 49%, so that there should be more than 160 beds for severely mentally unwell mothers to receive specialist care with their babies across England.