Perinatal mental illness (PMI) is a serious problem affecting 10 per cent of pregnant women and 13 per cent of new mums. It frequently manifests itself as anxiety, depression, panic, post-traumatic stress, obsessive compulsive and adjustment disorders, as well as phobias and more severe mental conditions including manic depression, schizophrenia and puerperal psychosis.
These issues during pregnancy are associated with negative consequences for the child, continuing mental health problems for the mum and is significantly associated with maternal deaths.
More than 10 years ago, led by Professor Julie Jomeen, a group of clinical practitioners in collaboration with the University of Hull, formed the Maternal Mental Health Strategy Group out of concern women with PMI were not receiving adequate, or timely care.
Ground-breaking research in the group’s locality identified major deficiencies in PMI treatment, including complex referral pathways resulting in disjointed services, deficits in specialist provision and poor communication.
All this was potentially leading to delayed diagnosis, treatment and care.
The research led to the group proposing and eventually implementing a radically different PMI service.
The group set up a clinical health care network with a central hub including a psychiatrist, mental health nurses and a psychological therapist. This hub linked to a comprehensive range of other services, including GPs, midwives, health visitors and social care.
This hub provided a range of support including customised PMI plans, early referrals to mental health services, early detection of mental health issues, greater communication between agencies and specialist assessment.
This model was accepted by the local NHS and launched in 2009, at a time when little provision existed nationally.
The work of this group has had a major reputational impact for the University and itself. It has been given national recognition as a transformational force in the field of PMI.
In addition to this, the group has attracted major funding to fund vital research into PMI treatment and management.