In 2022 our Deputy Director and Associate Fellow Holly Walker is leading a research project on perinatal and maternal mental health policy with the generous support of The Tindall Foundation.
It’s long been understood that a good start in life is important, but now a growing body of research demonstrates how significant parental mental health in particular is to long-term family and whānau wellbeing. Mental distress during the perinatal period (from the beginning of pregnancy until a year after birth) can have severe long-term consequences, not only for parents in distress, but also for their babies.
This is a concerning finding at a time when DHBs report increasing complexity of maternal mental health needs and high unmet need for support. However, it also presents an important opportunity: if we can understand what contributes to this distress, and put in place policies to actively remove or alleviate it, we can not only support mothers and parents who are struggling, but also significantly improve intergenerational outcomes – a critical public policy challenge and the subject of a current Productivity Commission inquiry.
We aim to publish a short paper in the first quarter of 2022 looking at what contributes to perinatal distress in Aotearoa New Zealand and identifying opportunities to better support new parents and their babies. We expect to focus in particular on how to support and enable community-led solutions. Later in the year, we will host a policy roundtable and public webinar to share key insights and recommendations. Our goal is to support policy change that restores and enhances the special status of parents, pēpī, and whānau at this crucial time.