More than one in four new parents (26%) said that they didn’t receive mental health help because they were “too afraid” to seek it, according to a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) survey released today.
The survey, which was completed by 2,000 new mothers and fathers between 20-30 October 2015, showed that during and after the pregnancy of their first child 41% of respondents had experienced anxiety, depression or another mental health issue.
However, less than 46% contemplated seeking help from a healthcare professional, with most of the participants receiving support from their partner or relatives. More than one in four (26%) said that they didn’t receive help because they were “too afraid” to seek it.
The RCN suggested that parents aren’t receiving life-saving support because of the “ongoing stigma around mental health”.
Carmel Bagness, professional lead for midwifery and women’s health at the RCN, said: “There is still a stigma around mental health which must be addressed, but this stigma is even more pervasive when it comes to parents.
“Midwives and nurses know how important openness and understanding is when it comes to mental health. Their employers should now ensure they have the training, and the time, to treat the mental health of mothers and fathers as well as they treat their physical health,” she added.
In support Clare Dolman, acting vice chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said that the alliance “wholeheartedly endorses” the RCN’s call for more training to combat the stigma towards new parents who experience mental health difficulties.
She said: “As a mother who experienced mental illness after the birth of my daughter, I am very aware of how frightening and isolating an experience it can be – and how much it can affect fathers too. I have met many women in a similar situation and the vast majority of them recover very well and are excellent parents, but they need the understanding and support of all those around them: not just family and friends but health professionals too.”