Last June, I was appointed by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, as Scotland’s Minister for Mental Health. Over the last 9 months, it has been an absolute privilege to hold such an important portfolio.
The Scottish Government are committed to ensuring that we all have the right help at the right time when we need to access mental health and well-being services.
Prior to being elected as MSP for Rutherglen, I was a mental health nurse for over thirty years – and for the last fifteen I specialised in perinatal mental health.
Perinatal mental illness affects up to one in five of women, and covers a wide range of conditions that occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child. If left untreated, it can have long lasting effects on women and their families.
We know that the impact of perinatal mental health is not just felt by women. The mental and physical health of fathers and other partners can also be affected following the birth of a new baby. We also know that between 5% and 10% of fathers may develop mental health problems in the perinatal period.
Being pregnant or having a new baby can be a very stressful time for many reasons and the mental wellbeing of all new parents is important for all members of the family.
Until a few months ago, I worked a few hours a month in Leverndale Hospital in their mother and baby unit . I was the first nurse to hold an Honorary Contract with Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS .
This unit was the first of its kind in Scotland, and I was actually part of the team that set it up in 2004.
I was incredibly proud, therefore, to have joined the First Minister last week to announce new funding of over £50 million to improve our perinatal mental health service.
The new money will provide funding for peer support services, counselling and psychological services as well as an expansion of specialist community teams and increased inpatient provision.
The additional funding will provide access to support and treatment for an additional 11,000 patients who experience mental health problems during and after their pregnancy.
Meanwhile, the national Managed Clinical Network (MCN) for perinatal mental health has published a new needs assessment report, funded by the Scottish Government. The report outlines recommendations to improve the provision of mental health care for expectant and new mothers and their families.
Our priority is to drive up standards of perinatal mental health care for new mothers and their children right across Scotland.
This new funding will identify mental health problems quickly so they can be treated promptly. Women and their families should also expect services to treat them with dignity and respect.
Work to deliver these improved and new services will begin very shortly with the voices and opinions of women and their families who have experienced perinatal mental illness at the heart of the new developments.
Clare Haughey MSP