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Mum with postnatal depression waits seven months for treatment

Emma Russell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Friday, 6 July 2018, 5:36AM
Christchurch mum Amy Payne with her baby daughter Hayley. (Photo / Supplied)
Christchurch mum Amy Payne with her baby daughter Hayley. (Photo / Supplied)

A Christchurch mother who was diagnosed with postnatal depression more than seven months ago is still waiting for help.

Advocates say Amy Payne's story is one of many showing a nationwide gap in support for mums seeking help for maternal mental health.

Of the 11,000 women experiencing postnatal depression and anxiety each year, about three-quarters were affected by delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Payne lost a lot of blood during the birth in October last year and was left traumatised by the ordeal.

"I can remember it so vividly. I was begging the doctor not to let me die...

"I just can't seem to shake the horrific experience. It's changed me and I need help."

With Payne's permission the Herald obtained her medical records which confirmed she was diagnosed two months after giving birth.

Her records showed two referrals for counselling that were not acted upon by medical staff.

Under Canterbury District Health guidelines GPs in the region can refer women with mild postnatal depression to Brief Intervention Counselling (BIC). Up to five sessions are funded by the Ministry of Health.

For Payne, this step was missed. A third referral for BIC was made last month but was declined within 24 hours due to the severity of her post-natal depression.

A referral for long-term counselling "to help with this level of distress" was recommended instead. Payne was not informed of the referral being declined nor the recommendation that was made.

She said she was shocked to discover her referral had been denied in the same day and that no one told her.

"Ultimately there was no plan for me and it would just continue on."

Women deemed too serious for BIC were referred to DHB-based maternal mental health care services but spaces were limited due to funding meaning only women with the most serious cases could be helped.

Payne's case was deemed too serious for BIC but it was not severe enough for maternal mental health.

The woman's GP refused to comment.

Maternal Care Action Group (MACGNZ) founder Kristina Paterson said about 75 per cent of women with mild-moderate post-natal depression in New Zealand did not meet the criteria for DHB maternal mental health.

"In Christchurch it's around 95 per cent. It's different in every DHB but for the most part, we don't have funding for primary care to treat mild to moderate depression or anxiety in women."

Paterson said she met with Associate Minister of Health and Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter earlier this year who had promised to take action to resolve this issue.

New Zealand Association of Counsellors executive member Christine Macfarlane said due to lack of funding for community mental health the supply of counsellors had not kept pace with the demand.

"Wait lists are the norm, and the high number of referrals are difficult for counsellors to manage due to the pressing need for therapy."


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