Bliss releases new research on mental health

Posted on July 19, 2018

Bliss conducted research among parents to find out more about how the neonatal unit impacts a person's mental health. Read about our findings here.

New research conducted by Bliss has revealed that 80 per cent of parents whose babies were admitted into neonatal care think that their mental health suffered after their experience. A staggering 35 per cent of parents reported that their mental health was “significantly worse” after their time on the neonatal unit.

The survey of 589 parents also found that 23 per cent of respondents had been diagnosed with anxiety after their neonatal experience.

Other findings include:

  • 16 per cent of parents surveyed were diagnosed with PTSD after their time on the neonatal unit.
  • 14 per cent of parents surveyed were diagnosed with postnatal depression after their time on the neonatal unit.
  • 39 per cent of parents surveyed felt they had developed a mental health condition after their experience on the unit, although they were not officially diagnosed.
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The survey also revealed the lack of support for new parents, with 62 per cent of respondents reporting they had no access to formal psychological support (such as counselling or talking therapies) when they needed it whilst their baby was on the neonatal unit. Only 8 per cent of parents surveyed felt like they received the right amount of formal psychological support whilst on the neonatal unit.

In addition, 45 per cent of parents said they had no access to formal psychological support when they needed it since leaving the neonatal unit.

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National standards for neonatal care across the UK indicate that all parents on neonatal units should have access to psychological and social support, including a trained counsellor.[1]

However, Bliss’ past research shows that no nation in the UK is reaching the national standards for psychological support in neonatal units.

Our research has found:

England[2]

41 per cent of neonatal units in England said that parents had no access to a trained mental health worker.

30 per cent of neonatal units said parents had no psychological support at all.

Wales[3]

45 per cent of neonatal units in Wales are not able to offer parents access to psychological support of any kind.

None of Wales’ three neonatal intensive care units (NICU) – which care for the country’s sickest babies – had a dedicated trained mental health worker working on the unit.

Scotland[4]

12 out of 13 units in Scotland have access to a trained mental health professional of some kind. However, access to these professionals is often inadequate to meet demand.

Northern Ireland[5]

Five out of seven neonatal units in Northern Ireland do not have dedicated access to a mental health professional.

Northern Ireland’s only NICU does not offer any access to a mental health professional.

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What is Bliss doing about mental health?

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss said: “The shocking findings of our latest research demonstrate the vital need for better mental health support for parents whilst their baby is on the neonatal unit and beyond.

“At present, none of the UK nations is reaching the national standard for providing psychological support to parents on units and our research demonstrates how detrimental this can be to parents’ health and well-being. Bliss calls for every UK Government to ensure that mental health support is available to each parent who has a baby in neonatal care.

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“Bliss is working hard to ensure parents receive the help they need whilst on the neonatal unit and beyond. We are currently producing new information for parents about mental health that will be available later this year. In the meantime, we continue to recruit and train volunteers who provide direct support to parents with babies in neonatal units across the country.”

[1] British Association of Perinatal Medicine Service standards for hospitals providing neonatal care http://www.nna.org.uk/assets/bapm_standards_final_aug2010.pdf

[2] Bliss Baby Report 2015: Hanging in the balance - England

[3] Bliss baby report 2016: Time for change - Wales

[4] Bliss Scotland baby report 2017: An opportunity to deliver improvements in neonatal care

[5] Bliss and Tiny Life Northern Ireland baby report 2018

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