Scroll down to see letter
During the 2019 federal election campaign, the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative asked each party where they stood on the creation of a national strategy for perinatal mental health.
NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh was the first to respond that an “NDP government will work with our provincial, territorial and indigenous partners, as well as families with lived experiences to develop a national perinatal strategy for Canada.”
The question of whether party leaders would support a national strategy was sent in the form of a letter by the CPMHC via email to all parties in August. It told of how Australia and the U.K. each have their own maternal mental health strategies that help to prevent, identify and treat perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). It also let party leaders know that the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada had endorsed the Australian Guidelines, underscoring the need for a multidisciplinary Canadian strategy.
In his response, Singh wrote that a perinatal mental health strategy was part of the NDP’s commitment to providing comprehensive care for Canadian families.
“New parents shouldn’t have to worry about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders while taking care of their newborns and growing families,” wrote Singh. “Canada only devotes 7.2 per cent of overall health care spending to mental health. Canadians deserve better. This is why a NDP government will expand mental-health coverage so that parents struggling with perinatal mental health can access timely, publicly-funded sources when they need it.”
Singh was not only the first leader to respond to the CPMHC’s letter, he was the first Canadian politician ever to commit to developing a national perinatal mental health strategy.
“The NDP wants to provide head-to-toe health care coverage for Canadians,” wrote Singh. “This principle is at the heart of New Democrats’ unwavering commitment to public health care. Universal access to public health care is one of the proudest achievements of New Democrats.”
Depression impacts 20% of perinatal women and 10% of their partners. Despite limitations in Canadian data, suicide is the 4th leading cause of death, with 1 in 19 maternal deaths in Ontario attributed to suicide. PMADs are stronger risk factors for child behaviour problems than smoking, binge drinking, and domestic abuse.
The annual cost of untreated perinatal mental illness in Canada is estimated at $150,000 per mother/child, with 85% of mothers improperly treated leading to economic costs of approximately $11 billion. Stigma and lack of awareness leaves the onus on the struggling mothers to reach out for help, meaning only 15% of mothers with a PMAD receive professional treatment.
The Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative is overjoyed with Singh’s response and looks forward to working with the NDP and all members of parliament on this all-party issue facing mothers and fathers across Canada.
“Finally, we have a leader that’s taking perinatal mental health care in this country seriously,” said CPMHC Co-founder, Patricia Tomasi. “Too many families are unnecessarily suffering and I’m encouraged to see a leader step up to the plate to help.”
The CPMHC was founded by advocates, researchers and health care practitioners from across the country with the mission of establishing Canada’s first national perinatal mental health strategy that includes universal screening of PMADs and access to timely treatment.