Response from Health Minister, Re Perinatal Mental Health in NI

You may remember, a couple of months ago, I wrote an open letter to the Department of Health about Perinatal Mental Health Care. You can find it here

I’m very thankful that Simon Hamilton, the Health Minister, has taken time, not only to read the letter, but also to reply. I thought you’d like to see it!

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(Please note: Having posted the letter on my blog, I printed it and asked my Husband’s office (my MP) to forward it to the Health Minister, on my behalf.) 

I have a few thoughts, from the response –

  1. I think it’s great the Whooley Questions and the free booklets focus on PND, but it’s not enough. PND can hit at any time, not when the questions are to be asked.  I think it’s improved education of what PND is, looks like, feels like and can present like  which will make sure the questions and booklets do the job they are intended for.
  2. Referencing ‘A Strategy for Maternity Care in Northern Ireland 2012-2018′ I am delighted that Objective 15 states “Antenatal education will be enhanced…to prepare them (parents) for parenthood as well as for birth”. This makes sense. We need much more help in understanding what happens after baby is born and how to move into the role of parenthood. However, the objective is not clear about how, or if PND, will be incorporated into the classes. I believe it needs to be. I would love to know if any of us, who have suffered, could speak into the planning of it. Wouldn’t that make sense – we could use our experiences to help shape education for others? I know it’s a stretch, but if you don’t ask…
  3. I am also very pleased that “community pastoral care” is being reviewed and hope this will lead to better support for all new mums and dads – whether they suffer from PND or not.
  4. The Health Minister highlights there are proposals in place to develop more “specialist community based services and a regional mother and baby unit”. This has me very excited! We need an end to the post-code lottery, that sees some women well supported and others not. But we have to keep pushing, to see it become a reality. There is clearly much more to be done, before we see mums get the service they need and deserve… “the development of specialist perinatal mental health services will be considered alongside a wide range of completing priorities. 
  5. There is more good news in the form of the RQIA carrying out a review of Perinatal Mental Health Services in 2016/2016…The RQIA have advised Lindsay’s experience can be considered as part of its review.” I am delighted to say that I am meeting with the RQIA and look forward to sharing with them, not only my experience, but all that I detailed in the open letter. That information is not mine alone – it belongs to you too! Thank you for sharing with me and now becoming part of the solution for other mums!

So there you have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts, on where we go from here. Let’s not be overly critical, especially just for the sake of it. But if you have constructive thoughts or anything you think I should be asking/focusing on (over and above what I have already written here or in the previous letter) please let me know. We can do this together! Simon himself recognises that we still have further to go, as he ends by saying “although there is much still needs to be done.

As the election is fast approaching on 5th May, we don’t know who will be the Health Minster in the new Assembly.  I’m not interested in canvassing for any party – not on my blog. But could I ask you to consider asking all of the candidates

“Can you assure me that your party will keep Perinatal Mental Health services high on its agenda and how will it go about doing that?” 

I’ve always been a bit shy about chatting to politicians on the doorstep, not sure what to say and getting myself in a fluster – not this time! I can promise you I will be asking that question, time and time again!

4 thoughts on “Response from Health Minister, Re Perinatal Mental Health in NI”

  1. As you know I live in California & I’m unfamiliar with the system over there, but wow, Lindsay – I am SO SO SO impressed with your taking action and with your brilliant knowledge – you are certainly one to be reckoned with, and you’re doing such thoughtful, important work for the well being of all mothers.

    How awesome you’re getting over your shyness about speaking with politicians!

    I’m totally impressed and inspired that you elicited such a detailed response. Thanks for everything that you’re doing to help other moms and their families!!!!

  2. Hi Lindsay, firstly well done on highlighting this extremely important illness. I know you asked that we not be critical but as someone who has had significant experience of PMH issues after a long history of depression, I can say honestly that the perinatal mental health pathway put in place is not enough. Despite having an amazing obstetrician (who was actually on the team that wrote the pathway) and despite my perinatal depression being diagnosed and all efforts made during my pregnancy to avoid the prospect of PND, I was severely let down by medical practitioners/CPN’s/GPs who thought I better to fight about whose job it was to do what, with regards to why was written in the guidelines and in the process ignore completely what was right under their noses. The second point is that they were more concerned about making sure they asked the million dollar question of “Are you going kill your self or hurt yourself ” instead of listening/looking at what was infront of them. I have had a long year of recovery after the birth of my second child and can honestly say, the expericence I went through was more detrimental than helpful, much like many of the people you’ve spoken to already perhaps. So yes, much still needs to be done! That’s an understatement. You’re doing a fantastic job, I am hugely grateful for the letter you have sent and the response it has generated.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts. You are absolutely right – PMH is not as it should be in NI and we need to do more to see change. I hope you are recovering now, I guess it’s something that never fully leaves us, I am finding that. I hope to do as much as I can, to see things improve..I am on a mission! Please continue to read by blog and get in touch with any other thoughts, at any point. If you ever would like to share openly on a post, just let me know! xx

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