1. To inform and engage with key antenatal and postnatal professionals in order to enhance their support for parents with respect to perinatal mental health;
2. To enhance the provision of well-informed direct communication about perinatal mental health issues with new parents via on and offline materials;
3. To improve communication and support related to especially neglected or difficult to reach groups, including fathers and migrant mothers.
The Context of our Work
The perinatal period before and after having a baby comprises a stage of the life course in which the risk of mental health difficulties is significant, for both men and women. The phenomenon of postnatal depression in mothers is long recognised, but understandings often remain limited to narrow, clinical definitions and levels of information, support and care are often inadequate RCM, 2017; Das 2019). A recent survey found that half of UK women felt they had suffered a mental health or emotional problem before or after having a baby (NCT 2019). Support for marginalised and difficult to reach groups of mothers, such as those from migrant communities, is a particularly urgent area for attention (Das 2019b).
At the same time, evidence increasingly demonstrates the prevalence of the mental health difficulties new fathers can experience (Fletcher et al 2018; Mayers, 2018; Williams 2018), with studies indicating 10% of new fathers experience depression (Giallo 2012) and others suggesting if variants of anxiety are also included, the figure is likely to be much higher (O’Brien et al 2017). Such difficulties are compounded by limited information, support and understanding, alongside broader difficulties men can have disclosing mental health challenges (Kowlessar et al.’s 2015; Fletcher et al 2015).
Such perinatal difficulties comprise a significant threat to the wellbeing of such fathers and mothers, as well as having significant implications for their families and children (NCT 2019). It is for this reason that mental wellbeing has been identified as a priority area and the subject of a prominent national ‘Hidden Half’ campaign, by the UK’s largest parenting charity, the National Childbirth Trust, one of the partners for this impact proposal. While the scale and significance of the problem demand multifaceted solutions and is dependent in large part on significant allocations of health funding (RCM, 2017), there are also significant opportunities to enhance information and knowledge about perinatal mental health issues, both among mothers and fathers themselves and health and parenting practitioners who engage with and have the potential to better support them (iHV, 2015).
Our Mission as an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account funded project:
The investigators have developed a plan of action which addresses two specific aims of the ESRC IAA.
First, we aim to “expedite capacity development within and outside the institution, through training and skills development, to ensure the sustainability of activity and practices learned during the lifetime of the IA”. Second, we pay attention, through a range of material and practical means, the aims of the ESRC IAA to generate impact which “through coproduction of research with users, facilitated by early/greater opportunities for dialogue and networking with external partners and stakeholders”.
Addressing these aims, we speak to two clear kinds of impact prioritised by the ESRC. The first – instrumental impact – deals with ““changes to policy, practice or service provision” and the second – capacity-building – relates to “technical and skill development”, both of which our proposed agenda incorporate.
What we will produce
Together with our partner organisations, we will translate our research on mothers’ and fathers’ perinatal mental health into workshops, infographics, factographics, evidence reviews, training and parent-facing material which will all aim to better support perinatal mental health.