As Vice-Chair of the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board, I am delighted to introduce this Action Plan on Peer Support in Perinatal Mental Health. Peer support is a vital component of good perinatal mental health care and a key objective for the Programme Board.
Peer support is a means by which those with lived experience can support each other to achieve better perinatal mental wellbeing. Evidence from the UK and overseas suggests that peer support can be an effective way to improve the mental health of pregnant and postnatal women.
Our overall vision for women, young children and families is that perinatal and infant mental health services are responsive, timely and address the changing needs of women and families throughout pregnancy and the early years of life. Peer support enhances the quality of that provision.
Developing peer support provision, and the publication of the report, form a core part of the 2020-21 Delivery Plan, and will continue into the 2021-22 Delivery Plan. Service provision must be led by the needs of women, young children and families, building on good practice and learning from positive and negative experiences of current services. The Women and Families Maternal Mental Health Pledge was developed by women with lived experience of perinatal mental illness and the Managed Clinical Network. The Delivery Plan places this Pledge, and the eight asks within it, at the very heart of its commitments.
Lastly, I wanted to say a huge thank you to the organisations who attended the launch event of the report on 30 October 2020. Through your helpful suggestions, we have been able to co-produce this Action Plan which aims to improve the provision of peer support for women and families in the perinatal period, across the whole of Scotland.
Roch Cantwell, Vice-Chair of Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board
Having a baby can be an amazing experience, but it can be difficult too. Being a new mum or dad can feel isolating, as you adjust to the changes to your life, and the huge responsibility of looking after a tiny human for the first time or looking after older children with a new baby in the house. The challenge can be much bigger if you are experiencing mental health problems, birth trauma, or bereavement.
Sometimes the only way to get through a difficult period is to make connections with others who have “been there” before. Parents have been helping parents for generations, within communities and family units, from an informal chat with a neighbour, to talking about mental health challenges with a larger group. This can often begin when you’re expecting a baby, as well as once the baby is born.
Many amazing organisations have come along in recent years to offer peer support to new parents. They can stand alongside the work of specialist perinatal mental health services and universal services, like midwives, health visitors, and GPs. Peer support can be offered within statutory services too. Early intervention can put that support in place, and sometimes prevent isolation before it begins!
To be accessible to all, perinatal peer support needs to take into account the shared experiences of race & ethnicity, sexuality, sex, gender, age, disability and so many other factors.
This Peer Support Action Plan is building on so much that has come before, and I look forward to seeing the Plan being delivered collaboratively, recognising the power of grass roots, collective support. It is so important that we support and value the contributions of peer supporters, and make sure they, and the support they provide is safe.
Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say, “I’ve been there, and it will get better”.
Clare Thompson, Participation Officer, Maternal Mental Health Scotland