In an article posted on the Guardian, the NHS plan to invest heavily in perinatal mental health over the coming years.
They said that “only 3% of the country had good access to perinatal mental health care as recently as 2014, but that it expected to have extended that to 100% by next April.”
And they also said that they will be “putting into effect a second wave of community perinatal services, costing £23m, as part of a wider package of measures aimed at providing care to 30,000 more women by 2021.”
But whilst these plans are great, there is a slight problem.
What About the Dads?
Obviously I think it’s great that the NHS have recognised that more needs to be done in terms of perinatal mental health. Parenting is bloody hard work. The more that parents can be supported then the better things will be for all involved. And there’s a part of me that’s just glad that at least the mothers will be gaining some extra support. Then there’s the other side to this.
They’ve completely disregarded the fact that it’s not just the mothers who suffer from mental health conditions. What about the dads? Claire Murdoch, the national mental health director for NHS England even stated that “Mental ill health doesn’t discriminate.” Yet ironically they appear to be discriminating against the fathers. Even if that wasn’t their intention.
Will the Funding Trickle down to the Dads?
Of course, I might be very wrong on this one. It wouldn’t be the first time. This extra funding might end up finding its way to helping out the dads too. But it’s nowhere to be seen in the wording of this report. They never use the word parent and instead go with mother. And they don’t even mention dads in any context at all. The closest they get is the following “It can happen to anyone at any time and it disrupts life not just for mums but the whole family…” This is just referring to the general affect that a mother suffering from a mental health issue has on the family as a whole.
As a dad reading this it doesn’t fill me with much hope that the zeitgeist on postnatal mental health is changing. Clearly the NHS are still regarding it as a mother dominated issue. Don’t get me wrong, more mothers likely suffer than dads. But the dads are still there. They still suffer too.
I Didn’t Need the Help
I was fortunate enough to never actually need the help when I had postnatal depression. Well, I dare say I needed it, but I didn’t use anything that was available to me. Perhaps that had something to do with not knowing what was out there. But it’s also something that I’ve always done. I work through what is going on with the support of my wife and don’t seek help until I’m at my last resort.
Besides, It’s not like I’d have the option to go to a mother and baby unit. Had it been my wife who had suffered then maybe she would’ve ended up in one of those units. Maybe they do allow fathers to go and I’m just oblivious. Had Rachel died in childbirth and I had postnatal depression, then why couldn’t I use one of those facilities in the same way a mother could? Or even if she hadn’t died, why couldn’t I use it anyway?
More Needs to be Done to Help the Dads
At the end of the day, more needs to be done to help support both parties in parental mental health. This isn’t an issue that affects only the mothers. So the NHS should be doing a little more than just providing care for the mothers. There are dads out there who suffer, and they really shouldn’t be ignored. Sometimes you can support the mother just by supporting the dad!