New fund to help mothers suffering depression

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New mothers suffering from postnatal depression or other mental health conditions could be given extra support under a £60 million plan set out by NHS England.

Under the plan, £40 million will be shared to fund new community mental health services in 20 areas, with a further £20 million to be allocated next year.

There will also be a new standard for treating people experiencing a mental health crisis in A&E departments or a hospital ward, with a recommendation that they should be seen by a specialist within an hour of being referred.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “For most parents having a baby is one of the happiest times of your life.

“But for tens of thousands of new mums, this experience is sadly overshadowed by severe pregnancy-related mental health problems.

“Now the NHS is taking concrete action to get these mothers and families the specialist mental health support they need.

“It is also the case that many other patients with mental health crises end up using A&E services as their first port of call, so today we are kick-starting the programme to expand the seven-day availability of specialist psychiatrist and mental health staff in our major A&Es.”

The first £40 million of funding for perinatal community mental health schemes will be allocated to 20 areas, helping reach 30,000 more women a year by 2021.

The funding will see new or bigger teams in those areas providing specialist care for all new and expectant mums with severe mental ill health like severe postnatal depression.

Under the new recommended standard for people suffering a mental health crisis, anyone who arrives at an A&E unit or is already on a hospital ward should be seen by a specialist mental health professional within an hour of being referred.

Within four hours they should have been properly assessed, with the next steps for their care planned in partnership with them.

Regional A&E delivery boards can bid for a share of £30 million of funding for psychiatrists and mental health nurses to provide better care for people with urgent and emergency mental health needs attending A&E or being treated on general hospital wards.

Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, welcomed NHS England’s announcement.

Gill Barker

From reaching the summit of Mount Everest to cycling thousands of miles across America, there’s no end to the lengths people will go to for a cause close to their heart. Breaking boundaries and taking on gruelling endeavours can mean the person taking part enjoys the experience of a lifetime while the charity benefits from generous sponsorship. But taking time off work and organising an extreme, and often costly, adventure just isn’t possible for everyone. That’s why Gill Barker, from Wakefield, has created her own twist on the trend to find the toughest, most epic charity challenge. Gill is set to turn 35 in 2020 – and reaching this milestone has inspired her to have a good think about what she’d like to achieve, both physically and mentally, and write a bucket list to help reach those goals. Gill will complete 35 challenges before her 35th birthday on Saturday March 14. Some are small, some are huge, but all of them will push her beyond her comfort zone. “Turning 33 felt like a big thing for me,” explains Gill, who works in marketing at Leeds Trinity University. “I started to think about the life decisions I’d made. I looked back and while I’d had fun, I regretted all those weekends where I could have been having more fulfilling experiences and creating memories. “I have a full-time job so I couldn’t do a massive overseas challenge, but I realised I could break it down into little bits and still raise as much money as possible for charity.” Gill has already ticked 11 challenges off her list. She’s faced her fear of heights at the outdoor adventure centre Go Ape, trained with the Leeds Rhinos, cycled 128 miles from coast to coast and climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. Other challenges have involved changing her diet to ensure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs, and going to the gym more regularly on her own – something that would previously have caused Gill a considerable amount of anxiety. During the festive season, Gill kept active by completing a ‘12 days of Christmas’ workout challenge. Gill is now taking part in RED January, a campaign run in partnership with Mind that encourages participants to beat the winter blues by being active every day throughout the month. Then, later this month she’ll be taking to the slopes at Xscape Yorkshire to try her hand at skiing for the first time. Gill’s biggest test of her ‘35 before 35’ mission so far will be taking part in a 24-hour run in March. The run will be completed on a 3.71-mile loop so not only will it be physically demanding, it will also play on her mental toughness. She will also be finishing the year in style by taking part in the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii in December. There are three conditions that all of Gill’s challenges must meet – they must be physical or stretch her mentally, they all need to be self-funded and they can’t affect her job. Driving Gill’s ambition is a passion to help two local charities that have personal meaning to her – Yorkshire Cancer Research and Leeds Mind. She’s already raised more than £500 for the two causes. “Like many families across the UK, my own family has a history of cancer,” explains Gill. “But people close to me have recently been affected by cancer, too. They’ve all been so strong and inspirational. I wanted to do something that would support them. “I chose to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research after reading that people living here are more likely to get cancer, and more likely to die from it, than people living in other areas of the country. The statistics really shocked me.” Gill chose Leeds Mind following her own struggles with mental health. Her ‘35 before 35’ challenge has helped her overcome a period of depression. “It’s given me something to focus on,” Gill says. “Many people are affected by depression, even those who continue to work and function in everyday life. It’s very easy to fall into that slump and stop doing the things you used to enjoy. “I’m feeling much fitter and healthier, but I’m also happier and more confident now that I have a new focus. “If I can encourage one person who may be going through a difficult period to be brave and do something they’ve never done before, face a fear or take on a new challenge in order to gain a new focus, then that would be brilliant. If I can do it, anyone can.” You can find out more about Gill Barker’s challenges and sponsor her by visiting www.35before35.co.uk. You can also follow her progress on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She is also looking for suggestions for challenges to complete the 35 as she is still a few short on her list. For further information on Yorkshire Cancer Research, visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.u

She said: “Around one in five women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year after delivering their baby and one quarter of all maternal deaths between six weeks and a year after childbirth are related to mental health problems.

“Despite these alarming figures, in almost half of the UK pregnant women and new mothers have no access to specialist maternal mental health services and only 3% of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have a maternal mental health service strategy.

“This initiative will not only provide invaluable support to women in the community, but also ensure that women can be referred to specialist services in a timely manner.

“Buddying and telephone support initiatives will also ensure that women feel able to share their own experiences and prevent feelings of isolation.”

She added: “Giving parity of esteem to mental and physical health is crucial and we have some way to go in addressing the stigma associated with mental health.

“Many women often fear being seen as a ‘bad mother’ and having their child taken away from them.

“Women are frequently made to feel guilty that they are to blame and that they have failed to be the ‘perfect mother’.

“No one is to blame for developing a mental health illness and as a society we need to be reinforcing this message constantly.”

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