The obstacles of accessing mental health care as a mother

I need to have a bit of a rant about the obstacles I have had accessing mental health care as a mother in England. I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall, trying to get help with my mental health problems, whilst finding someone to look after my child. Just like anything to do with parenting it is a juggling act and since the birth of my second child two years ago I have felt a constant struggle to access support for my postnatal depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. Things got so bad for me at points that I was under CRISIS team care twice and I attempted suicide.

After lengthy waits and weakening mental health you finally get an appointment for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and then you are met with the challenge of who will look after the baby? Like so many of us we don’t have access to childcare to go to these appointments and we miss out on crucial help. I have just completed CBT which took 3 months to get my first appointment and between appointments I had a minimum wait of 3 weeks between seeing someone and maximum of 6 weeks. CBT was helpful, but I had to be proactive and help myself as much as I could, which I couldn’t do when I was at my weakest. Not only could I not get appointments with my therapist I also couldn’t find someone to watch my child.

I have found this a relentless battle for accessing mental health care. I didn’t get everything I could out of CBT as I just wasn’t able to see someone enough and on a few occasions I had to cancel appointments when I needed it most, as I had no one who could help me with childcare. Like many people in my generation my parents still work, my other mum friends work and my husband also works long, unsociable hours. Between having the school runs to do with my oldest child and finding someone to watch my son for a couple of hours it was proving impossible at times.

I tried for over a year to get better by seeing various people, counselling, CBT and a private therapist and each time I had to stop before I felt ready, because of childcare. I am now starting diareltic behavioural therapy (DBT) which will be for 2 hours, once a week between 2-4pm, this is a group sessions and only runs once a week, so my hands are tied. I am doing everything I can to sort childcare, but I know I probably won’t be able to attend all sessions because of childcare issues. DBT is a fantastic therapy for people who suffer with borderline personality disorder and will give me ways in which to control my emotions and impulses. I have been desperate to start this since January and think it really could change my life for the better.

What annoys me most is that I may be seen as someone who isn’t using these services properly and that I am wasting time and money. I need these therapies to be a better person mentally and overall a better mum, yet nothing is done to help me go to these appointments. I feel I am doing all I can in my power to get help, yet I am forever struggling. I feel like I am wasting time and money and I am powerless to change things. How can I get childcare when there is none available?

It annoys me that I can’t drop my child off in a nursery (pre booked without a contract) for a few hours and pay for it as I go. I literally have my hands tied and no way of accessing the help I need. I am wasting NHS money. Wouldn’t it be worth the government looking at group CBT sessions for other mentally ill mum’s that had a crèche. All mum’s grouped together 1 hour a week whilst the children are watched. Wouldn’t this save the NHS money and also help mothers be seen quicker. After all we are a mother and we need our mental health to be looked after quickly and effectively. Could we not utilise the children’s centres we already have around us to make this a reality?

It still feels in this day and age as mother you are just expected to suck it up and get on with it and this infuriates me. I tried to do that and I had a mental breakdown in the process and then required CRISIS team care with daily visits, costing the NHS dearly. If I had been able to access the care I needed earlier I probably wouldn’t have needed this extra support and hospital admissions. In this country the go to support from the doctor is a prescription of antidepressants and possibly a visit from the health visitor. Things need to improve and become easier to access.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this and what you think could be done?


31 thoughts to “The obstacles of accessing mental health care as a mother”

  1. I am an hcpc registered dramatherapist with my own experience of PND. During my training I had to undergo therapy and it was during this time that I was able to process and understand why I had had such a difficult time during and after my two pregnancies. I really believe the work that I do can specifically help both pre and post natal depression. After I qualified in 2015 I approached my local perinatal care unit (which was running a perinatal mental health pilot scheme), the NCT, PANDAs and a local mother and baby unit to offer my services free of charge so that I could work with perinatal women, not only to offer them support but so that I could research the effectiveness of my work so that I could seek evidence of positive results. Not one of the organisation responded. I have also attended a number of conferences about perinatal depression and heard about the facts and figures, the research that has been done, all confirming that good mental health during pregnancy can have a positive outcome on the likelihood of developing PND. This in turn has an enormous effect on developing secure attachment with the baby, which will go on to be the basis of healthy neurological development in the child. I spent the first year after graduating trying to set up courses and workshops in my local area but despite advertising on local social media I just couldn’t get to the clients. I have since got work in primary schools working with children with behavioural and emotional difficulties; problems that I believe have their roots in insecure attachment, possibly caused by pnd. Unfortunately because I now work 5 days a week in two jobs I don’t have the time to continue trying to reach perinatal women. I am hoping to contact the local health centre to see if they would be interested in having some workshops or classes during the summer holidays. My vision is to give women support like the NCT do but whereas they tell you everything about what the body goes through during pregnancy and childbirth, I will help guide them through the mental and emotional changes that take place, including an understanding of what attachment really means and the neurological developments that children go through from birth onwards. It is a shame that we live so far apart as I would like to offer my services; I would also encourage you to bring your baby to the sessions if it made it easier for you to attend. I had counselling myself (years before I became a therapist) from when I was about 6 months pregnant to about 6 months after my daughter was born and I often took her with me. I cannot understand why a therapist would make it more difficult to attend sessions than it already is when you are feeling depressed or anxious. To me that shows a lack of understanding of what your client is facing. I really hope you get the support you need and wish you well with the DBT group you are attending. If you are interested in sharing your experiences or are interested in the way I work please get in touch. Best wishes, Melanie

    1. I admire your passion and really hope you can utilise your wonderful vision. I really don’t know why it’s made to be so difficult to get help when you have a baby. Personally for me I have practiced attachment parenting with both of my children and I have always been reluctant especially when babies to leave them, especially with nursing. Best of luck Melanie.

  2. Reading this I was struck by the thought of a creche too and think you’ve suggested a fantastic solution here. I hope that the right people read this and act upon it. #FamilyFun

  3. Oh child care is such a problem for so many reasons in life. I have the same issue when it comes to healthcare appointments and unfortunately I don’t have the answer. I do hope you don’t have to miss too many appointments as they sound like a wonderful resource. Good luck and thank you for joining us at #familyfun
    Tammymum recently posted…Getting Our Game On With TJ HughesMy Profile

  4. The idea of proving a creche for these things seems such a no brainer I’m amazed that no one has thought of it and done it! It would make such a difference

  5. I’m having this issue with childcare and CBT too! They say they prioritise mothers, yet don’t allow children to go or hold a creche?! It makes very little sense. They gave me telephone CBT until I could find childcare, which I didn’t find helpful but was nice that they tried, however now I have finally found someone to look after the kids on a Monday afternoon, and have been told there will be a 3-4 month wait to get my first appointment?! They won’t even continue the telephone CBT, which doesn’t make any sense at all?!
    I’m very lucky that I have an attachment psychologist who visits my house once a week, I don’t know what I’ll do when she has to stop seeing me. I have constant anxiety over this, as we can’t afford private therapy!
    That Mummy Blog recently posted…From Baby to ToddlerMy Profile

    1. I’m so sorry your still having to wait, it really is terrible. I had to wait so long with no support and ended up in hospital in the end. It’s such a tough battle and it’s not being made easier. If only they would give partners time off to care for a child whilst the mother got therapy. Being a parent is a joint venture yet it still feels like it’s a woman’s problem.

  6. You are absolutely right. There is (thankfully, finally) a movement starting now for mother’s postpartum rights – mental health access and maternity leave. These are absolutely crucial, and should just be basic rights! Every mom needs to have the ability to take care of their baby. Period.
    That means more time with baby for working moms. That means being able to have access to mental health. On top of access to the mental health, we need the time and resources to seek the treatments that we need. Squeezing in a therapy appointment alone is a stress inducing thought for most moms. Pile that on top of the mental hardships that she is trying to face, and its no wonder why so many women suffer from PPD and PPA for so long.
    Thank you for sharing your story. This is a very important piece in the fight to correct the way that things are.
    Lexie @ recently posted…10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Becoming an Exclusive Pumper (Guest Post at Swaddles n Bottles)My Profile

    1. I think you’re in the US, in the UK we do get good maternity care, but not much is done to help women with PND. I’m glad to hear things are changing for you though, I’ve always been surprised with how little maternity leave you get.

  7. I can completely relate to this! I would love to attend some type of therapy/counselling, however I wouldn’t be able to be sure someone would be able to look after my son. I only have a small window when he’s at preschool!

  8. It would make such a difference to be able to have group sessions with a creche. I opted for telephone counselling when I had postnatal depression – like you, sorting out childcare would have been difficult. I didn’t always get the most out of the phone calls though because of the distraction of having the children at home but it was the best I could do. I am so sorry you have had such difficulty accessing services. It is frustrating that there isn’t a way around these things – given how many mums suffer from postnatal depression, you’d think there would be some way of making it easier for them to access help. I hope that DBT works well for you x #familyfunlinky

  9. I wholeheartedly agree with this post, although I’m sorry to hear it’s your experience. I was lucky with my CBT sessions because I was able to get family to look after my son whilst I had them. I honestly don’t know how I would have managed otherwise. I agree that they need to look into something with combined childcare. Either that, or you should be able to take your child with you. I get that it won’t be as effective as you can’t fully focus on the session, but it would be better than nothing surely? You’d still be in a safe place and have the opportunity to open up to someone else.

      1. Things here is the US are definitely taking a turn for the worse if the current healthcare bill goes through. PPD is may now be considered a pre-exhising condition for insurance companies. That means that women can be denied coverage entirely or charged higher premiums because of this diagnosis.

  10. Childcare is a really big issue for us too. I know it’s not the same but my driving instructor just didn’t understand why I used to get so cross when he cancelled or moved my lesson time – trying to get that childcare set up is a nightmare and then rescheduling puts everybody out and you feel bad about asking them again later.

    I’m sorry you’ve had so much trouble accessing the help you need. These appointments are so important and yet so often you have to wait weeks, even months, before you can be seen, and often the need is urgent. I hope that your new course works well for you and that it helps you get back on track #blogcrush
    Lucy At Home recently posted…The Ultimate List Of Kids’ Charity Work OpportunitiesMy Profile

  11. You would think in a time where so many of us struggle at one time or another with poor mental health that a crèche for group sessions would be a really easy solution. Makes no sense to have so many barriers to help in place. Struggling with your mental health is so very exhausting as it is , the sheer hard work it takes to access services really isn’t helpful #dreamteam
    daydreams of a mum recently posted…The one where…. My child ruins Friends for me My Profile

  12. Mental health is still such a taboo subject. I hope you’re able to get the help and childcare you need. A creche just seems logical … they have them for gyms! Surely they can have them for other services too! Thanks for linking to #GlobalBlogging
    Lucy | Leaning In recently posted…The art of saying noMy Profile

  13. A creche of some sort seems like the most obvious thing to have doesn’t it. I’m sorry to hear you have been having such a difficult experience with getting help. It seems the way these days, where no one has enough time to really help and get to the bottom of things properly. Take care, and thank you for sharing with the #DreamTeam.
    Annette, 3 Little Buttons recently posted…Dress Up As A Snail with Pretend To BeeMy Profile

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