New mothers and fathers should be given advice and information about the importance of their mental health and wellbeing before they are discharged from hospital or the care of a midwife, say councils.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says it is vital new parents are also signposted to support services if they need further specialist help.
Information could include midwives providing mums and dads with leaflets outlining symptoms of depression and anxiety to look out for, as well as where to go if any of these arise. It could also include tips on how to stay mentally well.
This comes as the LGA today launches a new report “Being mindful of mental health” at the final day of its Annual Conference in Birmingham.
The report sets out the important role councils play in supporting the mental wellbeing of their communities.
It includes the LGA’s vision of what a “mentally healthy” place looks like, and highlights the need for better support for new and expectant parents.
Expectant parents should be told about the importance of their mental health alongside advice on vitamin supplements and healthy eating. They should also be given opportunities to discuss any concerns they have, the report says.
Only 7 per cent of pregnant women and new mums with mental health problems in the past five years were referred to specialist care, highlighting the urgent need to improve maternal mental health, a recent survey revealed.
It also found that 12 per cent of women’s partners experienced a mental health problem during or after the pregnancy and were provided with little support.
One in five mothers during pregnancy or in their first year experience depression, anxiety or in extreme cases, post-birth psychosis.
The LGA says the Government should introduce measures to support mental health in expectant and new parents in its Mental Health Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech.
The report also calls for a fundamental shift in thinking around mental health.
It says there is a need to move away from focussing on mental ill health to helping everyone stay mentally well, providing community support and helping people continue with their lives.
Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said:
“For a new mum, being mentally well should be as important as being physically well, and as important as the health of her new baby.
“New parents – as it can affect new fathers too – need to be made aware of the support services that are available for mental health. We are calling for this to be a fundamental part of being discharged from a hospital’s care.
“No new mother or father should suffer in silence. For example, they need to know that it’s perfectly okay to admit to feeling depressed, and that there are people they can turn to for help.
“Supporting new parents is just one of many things we can do to improve the mental wellbeing of all our communities.
“Councils want to work with the new Government and ensure it benefits from the unique position and expertise that councils have on mental health.
“The mental wellbeing of our local communities is fundamental to a healthy and prosperous society and the new Draft Mental Health Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech provides an opportunity to prioritise this.”