80% of N.I. still no access to specialist PMH services

Today the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), launched their updated Everyone’s Business Campaign Maps.

The maps were originally produced in 2014 to show which areas of the UK have access to Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Services and Support.

I’ve have been campaigning, for the last 3 years, using these maps, as they explain that in Northern Ireland 80% do not have access to to the services and support they need and deserve. 80%!

To be honest, I’m feeling a mix of emotions today.

On one hand, it’s very encouraging to see the changes in England and Wales (demonstrated on the maps, link below) which show significant improvement and targeted investment for specialist services, in each areas. This is fantastic news for mums and families, in these areas, and I’m celebrating with them. What good news!  We hope for more to come!

But on the other hand, the map for Northern Ireland remains unchanged. This is hugely significant.

In reality, this means that 80% of N.I. STILL does not have access to specialist perinatal mental health services and there is STILL no Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). This must change.

Specialist community perinatal mental health services are vital for the health of our mums and families in Northern Ireland, timely access to services can make all the difference. These must be made available – lives depend on them.

Of course, we know that fantastic work is happening, across NI, especially within community, voluntary and peer led groups and we should be very thankful for that. In fact, without this amazing work, mums would often have nowhere to turn. These services are more hugely important and they often don’t get the credit they deserve.

And of course, we have many committed and highly trained Health Care Professionals, who work with women and families every day, and make a huge difference. We should also be thankful for all of these people.

But we all know that none of this can make up for the lack of specialist services.

I’m delighted to work for and lead the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, Everyone’s Business Campaign here in Northern Ireland, as their N.I. Co-ordinator. (With that hat on and for work purposes you can get me at lindsay.robinson@everyonesbusiness.org.uk)

Have you seen that girl?  is also an active member of the MMHA and supporter of their Everyone’s Business Campaign.

For the last 9 months, I’ve been working with the Public Health Agency (PHA) on the implementation of the RQIA recommendations for Perinatal Mental Health.

Have you seen that girl? part of the leadership team of the NI Maternal Mental Health Conference, taking place next month.

And I’m delighted to be the Guest Editor for the next edition of View Digital which is  focusing solely on Maternal Mental Health and the immediate need for specialist services – that’s another great tool to add to our campaign!

There are so many fantastic people working hard, planning and campaigning. But, honestly, all of this can only take us so far. We need investment and funding to be to be urgently released in Northern Ireland, to ensure women, infants, families and communities get the support they need and deserve.

So, while I’m feeling many different emotions today, I’m going to allow them settle and then allow them to fire me further, to keep pushing for change!

I’ll leave the last word to Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance

“Over ten years ago national guidelines said that specialist perinatal mental health services should be available for all women who need them. This still hasn’t happened. We want to celebrate the new perinatal services that have been set up, but these maps show that there is still an urgent need for change on the ground. For women and families to be able to access specialist services, we need to see funding across all four nations of the UK. The job is not yet done. Women and families across the UK need this map to turn green.”

For more information on the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and to download the UK map as well as maps for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland – http://www.maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/campaign/maps