The importance of perinatal maternal mental health has been highlighted by a new report into services by leading social care charity, Quarriers.
Perinatal mental health illness in Scotland affects up to 20% of women – around 11,000 every year and if left untreated can have long-lasting effects on women and their families. Pregnancy and childbirth can pose problems for women with a history of poor mental health, but they can also trigger a number of significant conditions, including depression and anxiety, in women who have not previously experienced issues and without prompt attention these conditions can be long-lasting and devastating.
The Ruchazie Maternal Mental Wellbeing service provided by Quarriers has helped over 371 people since it was established in 2017 with funding from Comic Relief and the Tampon Tax Fund.
The research, carried out by the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection at the University of Stirling, has highlighted the importance of the Quarriers’ service which fills a gap in service provision that community mental health teams are not able to offer.
The range of activities, including one-to-one and drop-in services, as well as post-natal and ante-natal groups, are available to mothers who are often referred through health visitors, midwives, social workers and self-referrals.
Ruth Newman, Deputy Manager, said:
“We are very proud of the work we carry out and the report underlines the big difference that it makes in the lives of women and their families.
“Maintaining relationships with women who use the service and building trust with them and their families is a crucial part of this work and the report notes the importance of recognising and supporting women’s personal journeys and tailored support to meet their differing needs.
“The structure of the support also allowed women to overcome issues of trust, confidence and self-stigma and build relationships with others.
“It is meant to be a happy time but for some women, pregnancy, childbirth and the early years of their children’s lives can be lonely and distressing so it is good that the University of Stirling has recognised the positive impact that the Ruchazie Maternal Mental Health Service run by Quarriers is having on women in the north-east of Glasgow.”
The study’s design and findings were guided by the women’s experiences with the results highlighting the importance of providing the opportunity to meet other mums facing similar issues, along with supportive text messages and phone calls from staff, which all played an important role in recovery.
As well as group sessions and one-to-one support, counselling is also available, while a creche allows mothers time to themselves. The locality of the Glasgow based service and free transport to and from the group has played a key part in allowing women to access the service.
Clare-Ann, 47, from Gallowgate, is mum to two-year-old John-Paul and has been supported by the initiative for over two years and has felt a massive benefit.
With a history of depression from a young age, Clare-Ann was never able to find a support system which worked for her and after giving birth to her long-hoped-for son, she found it difficult to adjust to her new life as a mother. After being referred by her doctor, Clare-Ann had a home visit from the Ruchazie Maternal Mental Wellbeing service who encouraged her to come along to the centre for post-natal group sessions.
“Sometimes all you need is a cup of tea and to know someone is there who understands where you’re coming from and genuinely cares.
“Quarriers’ perinatal mental health service and staff have been there at every turn and has been a pillar of support for not just me, but John-Paul too who is loving his time at the nursery. I would advise any mothers who are struggling to take that first step by contacting the Quarriers team, reach out and let them help you in any way you need.”
Kayla Stevenson, the mother of Olivia (two) and Rachel (11 months), moved from Gambia to Edinburgh, before being housed in Tollcross, Glasgow.
Having used the services for almost a year after being referred by a community project worker, Kayla has seen a huge improvement in her own mental health, as well as the happiness of her two children, with Olivia finally beginning to talk and socialise with other children.
As a victim of female genital mutilation, Kayla’s depression and anxiety increased when she became pregnant with her first girl, Olivia, and memories began flooding back.
“At first I thought I was alone, I was isolated and I thought I was the only one struggling, but since coming here, it’s really helped me and my children. We have friends, a community of people who we know we can rely on.
“Quarriers’ Ruchazie Maternal Mental Wellbeing service is like a second home to me and the girls. Everyone is so warm and welcoming, as soon as you walk in the door, everyone is so friendly and just make me realise, I’m not alone. As asylum seekers, our lives are still uncertain in many ways, but this service has given us some consistency to rely on.”
In March 2019, the Scottish Government announced that more than £50million would be provided to improving access to mental health services for new and expectant mothers, including improving access to treatment, specialist care for acute perinatal mental health problems and improved infant mental health services.
MSP for Glasgow Provan, Ivan McKee, said:
“A happy and healthy Scotland depends on services like Quarriers’ delivering such quality care to those who need it most.
“Quarriers have done an outstanding job in providing the support which is crucial for those affected by perinatal mental health. The report’s findings really underline how necessary these services are to women across the country.”
Anyone who would benefit from support from the Ruchazie Maternal Mental Wellbeing services should contact 0141 774 8202 or firstname.lastname@example.org.