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New Mothers' Mental Health Crisis

The devastating lack of mental health support for vulnerable Mums and their babies has come under the spotlight this week after the Sunday programme looked at the issue in some depth.

Alarmingly, one in four new mothers will experience perinatal disorders as some stage between pregnancy and one year after giving birth, including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and psychosis.  One in ten fathers will struggle with depression after the birth of their child.  Left untreated, these conditions can lead to suicide, which incredibly is the leading cause of death for mothers in the first year of a babies life.

This systematic problem needs addressing for the well being of mothers, their partners, their babies and our society.  Poor mental health of parents creates economic and health costs for many years as it impacts an entire family. It simply makes sense to prioritise mental health of new mothers and their partners.

Like most things in healthcare studies repeatedly show that when it comes to the mental health of new parents an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yet time and time again we invest in expensive treatment to deal with the issue when it gets serious, rather than nipping it in the bud early.  

For decades, successive governments have been putting ambulances at the bottom of the healthcare cliff, trying to catch some of those who fall off, but barely addressing the underlying issues causing health decline in New Zealand.  We need to start preventing problems before they happen. 

The Opportunities Party realises that investment in mental health is a crucial part of prevention and evidence shows that prevention is best performed in communities in ways that suit that community, rather than through a one-size-fits-all top-down approach from District Health Boards. 

In terms of new mothers' healthcare, through our Thriving Families Solution, The Opportunities Party will support families by giving $200 per week to all families with children under three years of age.  Rather than telling families how to spend this money, this Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) would empower families to make more choices to support new mothers.  Further support will be given to our most vulnerable families under this policy.  Our Education policy prioritises the Early Years and is currently being updated with the aim of keeping families together in well supported, community based models.  

More broadly, many of our policies will have a big impact on the underlying issues that determine our physical and mental health.  We will reduce poverty through our Fair Tax Reform and Thriving Families Solution.  Our Climate Action Solution and improvements to tenant rights will also ensure people live in warm, dry homes. Our Real Deal Cannabis Reform and Real Action on Alcohol will reduce harm from both these drugs, as well as investing money in drug and alcohol rehab and improving mental health.  

The Opportunities Party is also working on a Mental Health policy in response to the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. If you have an interest in mental health, watch this space.

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