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Record demand for mental health services as new mothers are left ‘isolated’ in pandemic

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Tens of thousands of new mothers have been left feeling “hopeless” and “isolated” during the pandemic, with the NHS seeing record numbers of referrals to mental health services.

Requests for help from new, expectant and bereaved mothers jumped by 40% in 2021 compared with 2019, analysis by The Independent has revealed.

NHS data shows mental health referrals hit an all-time high of 23,673 in November last year, with average monthly referrals for the whole of 2021 running 21% higher than the year before, jumping from 17,226 to 21,990.

Among those affected when support systems were “suddenly” removed in March 2020 was Leanne, a woman who had her second child just before the pandemic and experienced a mental health crisis. She told The Independent how she had struggled following the first lockdown.

“I just thought, Oh God, my recovery is going to stop, how am I going to get better now because I’ve got no support – I’m on my own with it,” she said.

“I was [also] anticipating the lockdown … in addition to the nursery closing, and I was getting quite anxious about that, and feeling quite hopeless. The pressure piled on me was enormous, and I had no one who could see me or support me."

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, the shadow minister for mental health, said the figures uncovered by The Independent were “extremely concerning” and that pregnant women had been “forgotten about through the pandemic”.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ lead for perinatal mental health services, Dr Joanne Black, said the NHS pandemic recovery plan had lost sight of women in pregnancy and children under two years old, who have been “disproportionately affected”.

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Source: The Independent, 28 February 2022

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