Media release from Hon Tony Ryall

The Government is making a substantial investment in resources to help new mothers suffering with post natal depression and other mental illnesses.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says Budget 2013 is putting an extra $18.2 million over four years into dedicated maternal mental health beds and new specialist community services around the North Island for around 650 mothers and their babies a year. 

“Post natal distress happens a lot more than people realise,” Mr Ryall says, “Pregnancy and giving birth can trigger a mental illness and at least 15 per cent of mothers develop depression, anxiety, or a more severe mental illness at this time.

“The Government has taken on board expert advice. This recommends that supporting mothers and babies together at this critical early stage not only has an immediate positive impact upon their mental health and wellbeing, but also helps prevent potential future mental health issues for the baby.

“Currently new mothers with severe mental illness are often treated and supported in adult acute mental health units separated from their babies and families. Mothers will now get the support of the new specialised maternal mental health services with their babies beside them.

“This will allow them to bond with their infants and develop their parenting skills while at the same time receiving treatment for their mental illness, closer to home.

“The $18.2 million extra funding provides a balance of new dedicated acute in-patient beds, probably located at Auckland hospital, and an additional 10 to 14 community residential beds, mostly in the greater Auckland area.

“Most of the mothers receiving in-patient and residential care will also receive community follow-up from a dedicated team of health professionals,” Mr Ryall says.

“And of course they’ll receive good care from their GP and midwife too.

“These new services will have specialised multi-disciplinary teams to provide that care, and they’ll come from maternity, mental, child and primary health.  Women will be able access the best and right care available when they need it – and where extra help is needed the teams will be able to refer them to the right health professionals. 

“An additional 18 to 20 community health practitioners comprising doctors, nurses, midwives, psychologists, and support staff will be employed and DHBs will integrate the new services with their existing maternity and maternal mental health services.  

 “I anticipate this additional resource will start providing the help that is needed in 2014 with full capacity in 2015. This initiative will make a real difference to the families involved with post natal depression, and fits with other government policies aimed at improving the health of families,” Mr Ryall says.

The South Island already has a well- established dedicated maternal- mental health service including inpatient beds. 

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