KAWARTHA LAKES-The Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (CPMHC) is urging the federal government to keep its promise to ensure timely access to perinatal mental health services as it develops its response to the Omicron variant.
“At a time when everyone is feeling a loss of hope from yet another lockdown, we cannot forget our most vulnerable families: pregnant and postpartum women and birthing people who are already struggling with a mood or anxiety disorder,” CPMHC co-executive director, Patricia Tomasi said. “This population needs timely access to perinatal mental health services, as the federal government promised to provide in its platform and recent mandate letter.”
The CPMHC says it is not disputing the need for measures to help ease the burden on health care facilities and health care providers, they believe measures must also be taken to ensure the mental well-being of families during this difficult time.
“We are hearing from moms, dads, partners and birthing persons that they are at their breaking point and do not know where to turn for help,” CPMHC co-executive director, Jaime Charlebois said. “Time is of the essence. Struggling parents need help now.”
Officials say government-funded, specialist perinatal mental health care providers such as specially trained psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers exist in a handful of urban hospitals across Canada, but waitlists are long, and many are being redeployed in the wake of the Omicron crisis, leaving serious gaps in service.
“We believe that access to specially trained perinatal mental health care providers (such as those listed on the Postpartum Support International Canadian directory – www.psidirectory.com) should be ensured – regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.” says the group.
Perinatal mental illness includes prenatal and postpartum depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and psychosis according to CPMHC.
In Canada and worldwide, 20% of women and 10% of men suffer from a perinatal mental illness. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are the most common obstetrical complication making it a significant public health concern.