Last week marked Mental Health Awareness week 2018 and having been a mental health nurse for over thirty years, the topic of mental health is one which is incredibly personal to me.

To mark the occasion, I brought a member’s business debate to the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament which focused on the ‘Everybody’s Business’ campaign. This campaign focuses on perinatal mental health – a topic close to my heart as, for the last fifteen years, I have specialised in perinatal mental health care, still holding an honorary contract with Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS.

Although many people will be aware of the shocking statistic that suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 45, it is a probably lesser known fact that it is also the leading cause of direct maternal deaths within a year after childbirth.

Perinatal mental health problems are sadly all too common, with estimates ranging from between 10 and 20% of women developing an illness in the first postnatal year, and one in seven of those hiding or underplaying its severity.

Across the UK, mental illness in pregnant and postnatal women often goes unrecognised, undiagnosed and untreated – with many mothers suffering in silence.

The Everyone’s Business campaign is pushing for all women throughout the UK who experience perinatal mental health problems to receive the care they and their families need, and crucially, wherever and whenever they need it.

In 2017, the Scottish Government, with the UK’s first ever Minister for Mental Health, sought to address these disparities by launching the new Scottish Managed Clinical Network for Perinatal Mental Health to identify gaps in provision of such care, and promote improvements in local services.

This new network is an excellent start to ensuring that every woman and her family who requires help with perinatal mental health problems, receives prompt effective care from professionals who are skilled to meet their needs and, although not fully there yet, as an RMN of over thirty years I cannot overstate how far our mental health services have come in that time.

When I started nursing, mental health hospitals were on the periphery of society, quite literally on the outskirts of towns and cities, and there were few community services available.

Now community mental health services are the norm, there are liaison psychiatry in our acute hospitals, and crisis and home treatment teams can be found in most areas of the country.

As clinical nurse manager of the perinatal mental health service, I was part of the team who helped to set up the Mother and Baby Unit in Glasgow in 2004 – the first of its kind in Scotland.

All this and the continual work to end stigma has ensured our services, our treatment, and the prevention of mental illness is constantly improving.

As a health care professional, I feel very privileged to have worked with mums, their infants, and families at a very special time in their life, the time when their baby has been born.

Perinatal mental health is Everyone’s Business and until the time that those mums who experience perinatal mental health problems receive the care they and their families need, wherever and whenever they need it, we still have some work left to do.

I also asked the First Minister to join me in the campaign to encourage search engines and internet providers to provide free advertising for support organisations in search results.

Mental health support agencies often pay to ensure that their services appear in online search engine results when websites which offer advice on effective suicide methods are searched for. It shocking how easy these sites are to find and search engines must take responsibility and remove these harmful sites. In addition to this, a free advertising policy would sign post people to appropriate support at a time when they need it most.

I can only imagine how desperate an individual must be to try and access these ‘suicide sites’. Having the right person to call and talk to in that moment could be the very difference between life and death.


Date published: 18th May 2018

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