Submission to the consultation on perinatal mental health services.
1. How can the Scottish Government improve perinatal mental health services in Scotland, both in the short term and over the next five years?
In 2019, the Perinatal Mental Health Network published an extensive report highlighting the lack of provision for perinatal mental health support across Scotland. Their report Delivering Effective Services: Needs Assessment and Service Recommendations for Specialist and Universal Perinatal Mental Health Services, provides a wide-ranging roadmap for the improvement of perinatal mental health services. The Foundation supports its recommendations and would like to see them implemented in full.
2. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the mental health of new mothers and the support available to them during the perinatal period?
The Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic study, led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with Queens University Belfast, University of Strathclyde, University of Swansea and Cambridge University, has shown that lone parents were a high-risk group for self-reported emotional and mental distress during the pandemic. Our survey of people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic was completed by between 1,015 and 2,037 adults in Scotland at various stages during 2020 and into 2021 and has identified that this has had a particularly detrimental effect on the mental health and wellbeing of women. In March 2020 we identified that considerably more women than men reported feeling panicked (29% vs 12%), anxious or worried (70% vs 56%) and hopeless (20% vs 10%) as a result of the pandemic. Subsequently, in a further poll of Scottish adults in March 2021, it was identified that women continued to report experiencing the mental health effects of the pandemic more acutely than men, with twice as many women than men feeling panicked (14% vs 7%) and considerably more women continuing to report feeling anxious (51% vs 36%), hopeless (23% vs 18%) and frustrated (52% vs 45%). Women were also more likely to have concerns about the pandemic exacerbating an existing mental health difficulty (32% vs 27%), as well as concerns surrounding their ability to access health services (37% vs 27%).
3. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the mental health of those who have experienced the death of a baby, and the support available to them?
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social restriction measures entailed, parents who lost a baby during this period were additionally faced by a loss of the usual emotional support which would have been offered by services. This included a loss of direct face-to-face support from clinical services, voluntary sector and peer support services. It is essential that as we prepare for further potential lockdowns, ways of ensuring parents who are exposed to this incredibly distressing experience, are still able to receive the emotional support they require.