An important event to raise awareness of black maternal mental health has been held in Walsall this week.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust is supporting Black Maternal Mental Health Week which is co-ordinated by The Motherhood Group.
Taking place from 26 September to 2 October, it aims to raise awareness, highlight disparities, provide resources and break cultural barriers in maternal mental health for black and brown mothers, and birthing people.
The theme for this year is Equity in black women’s maternal mental health journey.
Equality and Inequality Lead Midwife, Carol King-Stephens and Specialist Midwife for Mental Health, Heather McHugh held an awareness presentation for staff members.
Heather said: “Black maternal mental health is important to both of us as and by joining forces we are able to bring awareness and highlight the disparities that people do face in services.”
Carol added: “With the low uptakes in referrals to mental health for black and brown service users we need to change that and improve outcomes for all women.
They both explained: “We would like black and brown mothers to know we are here to support them and we want them to feel safe. We want to encourage them to have that positive birth and pregnancy experience that we want everyone to experience. We are here to break any barriers of stigma they may hold.
“We are raising awareness ourselves through staff and hoping with staff education there will come a change in people feeling more confident and comfortable to have conversations. We want to break down barriers and limitations there may have been and to know that we are providing services and futureproofing our service.
“We want black and brown mothers to know that they can trust us and they are in a safe space.”
Government statistics show black and brown people, in particular, have higher rates of mental illness and are therefore more likely to encounter mental health services. The 2017 Race Disparity Audit found that black and brown women are the group most likely to have experienced a common mental disorder such as anxiety or depression.
This is due to numerous factors including unconscious bias, a lack of diversity in education and resourcing and historic rhetoric to name a few. The additional impact of COVID-19 and the highlight of morbidity and mortality rates for black and brown mothers is another reason black maternal mental health is suffering.
Black and brown mothers are at a significantly higher risk of postnatal depression and anxiety than white mothers and this is due to numerous factors including identifiable gaps in maternal and perinatal services, disproportionate maternal and infant morbidity and mortality rates that are increasing fear and trauma experienced by them.