Health visitors are 'the most important' healthcare professionals to improving maternal and child mental health stated a leading consultant and senior lecturer in perinatal psychiatry.
Dr Alain Gregoire, who is also the chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance spoke at the Institute of Health Visiting's second anniversary event highlighting the crucial role that health visitors play in treating maternal and infant mental health.
'Previous child maltreatment is the biggest indicator of a mother's mental health. These problems can run on for generations and so early intervention is so important,' he told the room full of health visitors.
He said that depression was the most common severe challenge to motherhood above all other conditions.
According to Dr Gregoire the cost of not acting on maternal mental health is £8.1bn in comparison to the £337m it would cost to create a mental healthcare pathway. The NHS spend on physical maternity healthcare is £2.6bn.
He identified that one of the biggest problems facing mothers with mental health problems was that the 'NHS does not join up services well.'
'The delivery of specialist services is not good,' and mothers often get lost in the system in moving between specialist services, he added.
Sasha Barber, a health visitor from Gloucestershire, told the delegates about how she enhanced mental health training for health visitors in the county and about her work as a Perinatal Mental Health Champion.
With the help of Bristol-based charity Bluebell and Gloucester-based charity Homestart Ms Barber was able to increase the mental heath provision for mothers in the county. This led to mandatory mental health training for all health visitors in Gloucestershire, as well as yearly updates, she said.
There will be a county-wide conference in March 2015 and a mental health resource for health visitors in currently in development and will be released next year.
The rest of the event focused on the work that the iHV has completed in the past year, and looking forward to 2015.