We’ve been doing some in-depth research with mothers for our Maternal Mental Health Films Project as part of our work to support parents through the emotional as well as physical transition to parenthood. Some of the stories the mothers have told us have been heart-breaking, the personal costs of mental illness during pregnancy or after birth are incalculable. Last Monday for the first time we found out what the economic costs are.

The figures are published in a ground-breaking report by the London School of Economics and the Centre for Mental Health, commissioned by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance of which Best Beginnings is a proud member.

The costs are huge; they have calculated that the known economic and social cost to society is about £8.1 billion for each one year cohort of births in the UK, and they say that this is probably an underestimate. 72% of these costs relate to adverse impacts on the child rather than the mother; £1.7 billion of these costs are borne by the public sector, most of it by the NHS. A huge £6.4 billion is borne by society as a whole. As shocking and unacceptable as the findings of the real economic cost of the status quo is, we are delighted that this robust piece of work has been done as it makes an unequivocal case for the importance  of a preventative and early intervention approach.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance commissioned the report to support our ‘Everyone’s Business’ campaign. The campaign is highlighting the patchwork of service provision across the country and demanding that commissioners and services planners do something about it. We know that many women need specialist perinatal mental health services but a national audit undertaken for the campaign shows that less than 15% of localities across the UK provide these at the full level recommended in national guidance and more than 40% provide no service at all. A recent survey by the National Childbirth Trust this year found that only 5 out of 194 Clinical Commissioning Groups in England have a strategy for providing perinatal mental health services.  

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

The London School of Economics and the Centre for Mental Health have calculated that it would only require £280 million a year to bring the services in England up to the level and standards recommended in national guidance. The economic case for change is clear. Put simply, as a nation we can't afford not to put in place the services and support that build resilience, enable earlier diagnosis, and ameliorate the detrimental impact maternal mental health problems have on the mother, her baby and the family as a whole. The challenge is to make this change a reality.

Since February this year we have been working hard on our films project, which in addition to providing essential information for parents, will put Maternal Mental Health on the agenda of health and social care workers and commissioners. The films will be used in our Baby Buddy app and on a DVD we are creating for professionals to use with parents and in staff training. 

Our films are designed to be a catalyst for much needed change and you can help us. If you are a parent who has experienced mental health problems during pregnancy, or after the birth, and you want to get involved just click here:   http://www.bestbeginnings.org.uk/News/take-part
If you are a health or social care professional and want to help us shape the tone and content of the films contact my colleague David King: [email protected]
Together we can make a difference for future generations.