Neonatal Mental Health
People are talking about mental health on social media and in blog posts. Schools and workplaces are becoming more aware of the impact of poor mental health. This is obviously a fantastic step forward. Sometimes you can’t help but feel whilst there is more awareness of mental health problems, there is also less funding available and more people are finding it difficult to access mental health support and help.
A study by the charity Bliss showed that 35% of parents who had experienced neonatal care reported that their mental health had been affected by their time on the neonatal unit. Parents can go on to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Some of these mental health problems are not picked up for months after discharge from the neonatal care, even by the sufferer.
Parents of babies in neonatal care can experience very traumatic births. They are also witness to their baby encountering traumatic medical intervention, and sometimes see or hear things happening to babies of parents they may have become close too. The neonatal unit is an amazing place but it can also be a place of sadness. Parents may experience a bereavement on the neonatal unit, which is devastating for the parents and family. Doctors and nurses are only human and they can be affected by the loss of a baby on the unit too. They have to watch babies fight for their lives and families fall apart. This impacts negatively on their own mental health and we sometimes forget about the well being and mental health of our NHS staff.
As with any traumatic event, scars vary. Some people may find their mental health is affected very briefly and need little or no help at all. For others the impact is huge and and without help the scars may never heal.
When babies are discharged from the neonatal unit, parents sometimes feel everything will be OK at home. They may find friends and family telling them that too. Then when they go home, they don’t feel OK. They feel stressed and anxious. They may feel unable to return to what was once their normal life, and then they feel guilty about all these feelings. There are constant triggers in everyday life. Their mental health is suffering, and they don’t know what to do about it.
Parents often tell us, or each other, that they feel like they need some support with their mental health, but they don’t know where to start in accessing help.
As parents ourselves, some of whom have experienced our own mental health problems, it makes us sad to see the mental health of parents negatively affected by their experience of neonatal care. It also makes us sad to see how it affects the neonatal teams who are caring for our babies.
World Mental Health Day
Today we celebrated World Mental Health Day on the neonatal units at North Manchester and Royal Oldham Hospitals. One of our wonderful peer support volunteers, Beth, put together some adult colouring in packs for parents on the unit, which went down well with everyone.
Today we were around to provide peer support to families who needed someone to talk to. We also talked to parents and staff about what other mental health services are available for those who might need them. Recently we have started to work with a trauma therapist who will be available to offer support to those parents that feel they need it, and we are planning to expand on this in the very near future.
Thanks for reading about some of the issues our families are facing, and if you are struggling yourself here a few links that may be able to offer you some support.