High rate of suicide in pregnant and post-natal women

Suicide is the leading cause of death during pregnancy and the postnatal period, and Māori women are three times more likely to die this way, a new report has found.

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High rate of suicide in pregnant and post-natal women- BPN TODAY

The Helen Clark Foundation is calling for urgent investment into a maternal mental health policy to wrap around new parents and their whānau.

“Up to half of all birthing parents experience symptoms of perinatal distress and this has long-lasting consequences,” report author Holly Walker said.

“We need to treat this issue really seriously, and treat it as a major public policy priority – and invest in it accordingly”

The report wants to see the issue become a focus for the government’s new health agencies as part of its upcoming health reforms.

Walker said stress, anxiety, and depression has long-lasting consequences for both parents and babies.

“Having a parent in distress can also cause serious detrimental impacts for babies that can hinder their cognitive, emotional, and physiological development”

The report showed current support networks for new parents were not up to scratch and perhaps inequitable.

“The evidence indicates that support works best when it comes from sources that parents already know and trust, and that community-led and kaupapa Māori driven initiatives can be especially effective.”

It included a string of recommendations, with an overarching call for significantly more funding into the area.

And said families need fast access to affordable, culturally appropriate therapeutic support for parents with early signs of distress, and to guarantee immediate access to best practice specialist help if they become unwell.

ACC should be expanded to cover mental injuries and birth trauma, midwifery funding should be boosted, and public housing priorities should be expanded to include placements for whānau with young children or expecting new babies.

Walker said it’s timely for the government to take action.

“With the formation of Health New Zealand mid-year there’s an opportunity to ensure perinatal mental wellbeing is included as a key focus area,” she said.

“This would help break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage.”


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