New mothers and fathers should be given advice about the importance of their mental health before they are discharged from hospital, council chiefs say.
A new report from the Local Government Association (LGA) sets out the important role councils play in supporting the mental wellbeing of their communities.
Entitled Being mindful of mental health, the new report recommended new parents be provided with leaflets outlining symptoms of depression and anxiety. It could also include tips on how to stay mentally well.
The report also said it is vital new parents are signposted to support services if they need further specialist help.
Only 7% of pregnant women and new mums with mental health problems in the past five years were referred to specialist care, a recent survey cited in the report revealed.
One in five mothers during pregnancy or in their first year experience depression, anxiety or in extreme cases, post-birth psychosis.
It also found that 12% of women’s partners experienced a mental health problem during or after the pregnancy and were provided with little support.
Being mindful of mental health said there is a need to move away from focussing on mental health as an illness, but instead help everyone stay mentally well, providing community support and helping people continue with their lives.
‘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,’ said the chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe.
‘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 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.’