Rugby mum who struggled with post-natal depression joins campaign for better mental health support for new parents - The Rugby Observer

Rugby mum who struggled with post-natal depression joins campaign for better mental health support for new parents

Rugby Editorial 29th Oct, 2020   0

A MUM from Rugby who struggled with her mental health after the birth of her first child has shared her concerns for new parents during the pandemic, as part of a nationwide charity campaign.

Melissa Burgess has joined the NSPCC, a coalition of early years charities, and over 2,000 members of the public in the Fight for a Fair Start campaign – a call for the government to make sure all new parents receive the mental health support they need, now and beyond the pandemic.

The children’s charity has warned the government is at risk of failing a generation of babies born during the pandemic, and urged it to rebuild health visiting services in England.

And Melissa, 48, knows how hard it can be to be a new mum even in the best of times.

Having always wanted to be a mum, she and husband Dave were delighted when she became pregnant.

But when their daughter Lily was born in 2015, Melissa really struggled with her mental health and felt that because everyone else’s focus was solely on her baby, hers should be too. It took almost a year before she began to feel more like her usual self.

She said: “I was struggling with post-natal depression and often felt overwhelmed and not good enough to be her mum.

“Thank goodness I had support from my health visiting team and my family, particularly my mum who recognised my depression before I did, to guide me though those tough months.

“I feel so sorry for any new parents who are struggling with their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. Support from others is so vital when you’ve just had a baby and being isolated must be so difficult for new parents.”

When the couple had their second daughter, Harriet, Melissa noticed a big difference.

With frequent check-ins from professionals on how she was feeling and consistent support from her health visitor, she felt far more confident as a mum and felt supported when she recognised the need to help her husband with his own struggles with his mental health.

She added: “I’ll occasionally see a new mum when I’m out and about and wonder how she’s coping. Support from professionals is so important to help new parents at any time, and is more important than ever now.”

Happier times – Melissa with Harriet in 2019.

In an open letter to health minister Matt Hancock, the NSPCC says England’s health visiting programme is not equipped to meet the challenge of the Coronavirus pandemic, and must be rebuilt according to principles developed by a group of early years organisations.

The charity says Covid-19 restrictions mean many women have had to give birth alone and new parents have been cut off from their support network of family and friends. Lockdown has also seen restrictions to health visitors, meaning just one in 10 parents with children under two saw a health visitor face-to-face during the pandemic.

Since April, the NSPCC’s helpline has received 1,897 contacts from adults concerned about parental mental health. The monthly average number of contacts post-lockdown has increased by over a third when compared to the average for January to March.

Andrew Fellowes, Public Affairs Manager at the NSPCC said:

“Without the right support, perinatal mental health problems, and difficulties in the parent-infant relationship can have serious immediate and long-term consequences for both children and families.

“The government is at risk of failing a generation of children if it does not commit to rebuilding the nation’s public health services for families. Before the pandemic began the health visiting service was struggling to support parents and babies across the country, and we know it is not equipped to meet the challenge of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We are urging Matt Hancock to ensure there is sufficient funding and resources, so no families are left behind at a time when they will be relying on this support the most.”

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said: “Over the past five years we have seen an average 30 per cent reduction in the number of health visitors in England. The average health visitor caseload is now 500 children, double the recommended number.

“The number of invisible vulnerable babies will have increased and perinatal mental illness is already reported by health visitors to be ‘sky-rocketing’.

“We urge the government to listen to the voices of parents, charities and health professionals now and take urgent action to reinstate a robust health visiting service before even more damage is done.”

Visit to sign the Fight for a Fair Start petition.


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