More lives will be potentially saved thanks to vital funding being rolled out for specialist perinatal services, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland said today.
Around one in five new mothers have a condition such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD or a psychotic disorder.
And maternal suicide is still a leading cause of death in the first year after a woman gives birth.
Historically, Northern Ireland lagged behind the rest of the UK when it came to specialist perinatal services – with no specialist community teams in four of the five health trusts and no mother and baby unit.
But last May, Health Minister Robin Swann announced funding for community perinatal teams as part of a package of measures in the Mental Health Action Plan.
Now that promise has been kept with a cash injection of around £3.4m for the health and social care trusts to develop specialist community perinatal teams for new mothers.
Dr Julie Anderson, chair of the Perinatal Committee, RCPsych NI, said: “After years of campaigning, we’re ecstatic to see this life-changing and indeed life-saving funding announced and we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Health Minister, especially at a time when the pandemic is stretching health services.
“Pregnancy and the early postnatal period for many mothers is a fabulous time of life but it is a period in life when women are most at risk of developing a new mental illness or experience a relapse of a pre-existing one.
“This financial investment will go a long way in making sure new mums with serious mental illness can access the care and treatment they so vitally need.”
Lindsay Robinson, perinatal mental health campaigner, said: “As a mum with lived experience of perinatal mental illness, I am absolutely thrilled and very relieved that these services are finally to be made available across Northern Ireland.
“Some of the darkest and most difficult days of my life would have been transformed had access to these been available, so I know personally the difference they can and will make for mums, infant and families. This is great news."
Tom McEneaney, Aware and maternal mental health alliance regional coordinator, added: “This fantastic announcement is a great step forward in providing much needed specialist services for women and their families throughout Northern Ireland.
“It is recognition for all the many people who have campaigned for many years for this development.”