Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside addresses the Scottish Parliament regarding the Healthy Start, Healthy Scotland campaign. Watch the video in full below and click "read more" to view the speech's text.
I being by expressing my gratitude to the members across the Parliament who supported my motion and enabled us to have this important debate. The healthy start, healthy Scotland campaign was launched at a meeting of the cross-party group on mental health, which I co-convene alongside Mary Scanlon and Malcolm Chisholm. At that meeting, I said that I would seek an opportunity to debate the issue in the chamber, and here we are. Never let it be said that I am not a man of my word. The campaign is aimed at improving awareness among professionals and the public of maternal mental illness, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health problems for mothers and increasing professionals’ confidence in detecting and treating maternal mental illness. To drive that forward, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland aims to hold public events with professionals, politicians and the media, and to ensure that practitioners who work with mothers and children are aware of the issues that relate to maternal mental health problems and work holistically to address them. It will seek to establish an interfaculty group and links to other royal colleges and to host a round table that brings together representatives of parents and children, voluntary agencies, statutory early years agencies and professional organisations to share best practice across Scotland. One woman in five will develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first postnatal year and, beyond that, seven women in 10 will hide or underplay the severity of their illness. One in two women who experience depression in the perinatal period will go undiagnosed—while one in five will develop a mental illness, only one in two will be diagnosed. The term “postpartum depression” is most commonly used, but maternal mental health problems can also include anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorders and postpartum psychosis. We often talk about the baby blues, but those problems are considered to be separate from postpartum depression. The baby blues are a feeling that affects about 70 per cent of new mothers—a feeling of despondency that occurs after the birth of a baby. Often, however, the two terms are conflated, which can be unhelpful. We know that inequality is correlated with poor maternal mental health. Postnatal depression can occur in any mother, regardless of income, but we know from Scottish Government figures that 6 per cent of the highest-income mothers were found to have poor mental health compared with 24 per cent of the lowest-income mothers. The Scottish Government’s growing up in Scotland reports have shown that children whose mothers were emotionally well during their first four years have better social, emotional and behavioural development than those whose mothers had brief mental health problems, so as well as this being an issue for the mother, there is an impact on children that has to be borne in mind. About 5 per cent of children aged five to 10 are thought to display problems that merit mental health diagnosis, which is of concern to all of us. However, treatment is available for both mothers and children. We need to ensure first that people come forward for diagnosis and then, once they have achieved diagnosis, that the most appropriate treatment is available. Work is being done with families across Scotland, and it is not just about treatment. I highlight a project that is being undertaken in Aberdeen and which merits a mention. One of our duties as MSPs is to highlight positive examples from our areas. Four organisations have come together in Aberdeen to form a family support network: the family learning team, Aberlour Child Care Trust, the Scottish Childminding Association and Home-Start Aberdeen. Their integrated working strategy has reduced duplication of services and enabled the third sector to work closely with national health service midwives and health visitors to ensure appropriate referrals and targeting of support. Home-Start has supported 115 families since 1 April this year. It works closely with health visiting teams, which 80 per cent of its referrals come from. It provides support from peers who are mostly parents, who are matched with an individual family who they visit weekly. More than 80 per cent of its referrals in Aberdeen are made as a result of a mental health issue arising or involve a mental health issue, more than 90 per cent of which are related to isolation, which impacts on the mother’s mental health and on the child, who does not have the opportunity to socialise with their peer group. The Aberlour service supports parents who are affected by substance abuse issues and parents with learning disabilities. Referrals are made through social work. The Scottish Childminding Association provides a community childminding service; in Aberdeen, that allows parents to access up to 72 hours of free childminding to support them, which is invaluable for many families. The family learning team can provide one-to-one, in-the-home support for parents with children aged nought to three or support programmes in small groups for parents with children aged three to eight. Fantastic work is being done out there. One thing that led me to bring the debate to the chamber was that I wanted to reflect my experience. Following the birth of our second child, my wife went through a period of postnatal depression and I saw at first hand the effect that that can have, not just on the individual but on the family unit. One of the difficulties, which I referred to when I talked about Home-Start, was that my wife became isolated. She lost the confidence to go out and interact with other family groups and, therefore, the opportunity to get my daughter into situations where she would meet other small children. Two things helped. One was a local coffee morning, which my wife attended regularly and which enabled her to interact with others outside the home environment. When my son was in education and I was down here in Parliament, my wife found it difficult to get out of the house. The other thing that helped was a local toddlers group that we took our daughter to, which enabled her to have social interactions and meet her peer group. That is why I was taken by the Scottish Association for Mental Health’s recent remarks in the press about the benefits and possibilities of social prescribing, which are particularly relevant to maternal mental health issues, where isolation, an inability to socialise and the feeling that they cannot reach out to other mothers for fear of stigmatisation can often grip those who are affected. There are examples of good work out there. It is a question of making sure that the dots are joined up and that we in the Parliament do all that we can to support our constituents who are affected by such issues and to ensure that they get the support that they deserve. - See more at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10174&i=93794&c=1874990&s=healthy%2520start%2520healthy%2520scotland#sthash.8lAqtVs3.dpuf