NHS England has announced that new fathers will be offered mental health screenings and treatment if their partners are suffering from illnesses such as postnatal depression, anxiety and psychosis.
Research shows that one in five women will encounter mental health issues during the first year of birth, but one in 10 men will also be affected.
The new initiative, which has been described as “radical” by the NHS, aims to prevent men’s mental health problems from being overlooked and help both parents ease into family life.
“These days dads and partners are rightly expected to be more hands-on,” said Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, “and NHS mental health services also need to step up and support families at times of extreme stress and anxiety.”
He went on to explain how important is is to recognise the mental impact parenthood has on men and how anxieties can be severely exacerbated if their partner is suffering from mental health problems.
“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 the NCT [National Childbirth Trust] and other groups, the NHS has a role to play in helping support the whole family.”
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, added: “The NHS has made huge strides forward in improving mental healthcare for new mums, and ensuring their partners are properly supported, too, is the next logical step.”
The move comes after Theresa May announced the NHS will receive an extra £20bn a year by 2023.
Psychiatric services for new and expectant mothers will also be expanding, with three new mother and baby units opening up this year alone and one set to open in East Anglia in 2019.
Specialist perinatal teams will be in place all around the country by April 2019, offering evidence-based psychiatric and psychological assessments for women experiencing moderate to severe mental health problems in the first year after birth. Counselling will also be offered to those who want to get pregnant and have had issues in the past.
Dr Giles Berrisford, associate national clinical director for perinatal mental health for NHS England, said: “Mental illnesses are cruel and they seem doubly cruel when they affect parents making that transition into family life. The expansion of perinatal mental health services with specialised community and inpatient beds helps to ensure mums with severe perinatal mental illnesses receive the help they need, when they need it.
“It is essential to support those people who care for these mums the most: their partners. This targeted support will help to achieve this.”
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