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June 4th, 2021

NDP health critic introduces bill to create national perinatal mental health strategy

VANCOUVER – Today, NDP health critic Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway) unveiled legislation to develop a national perinatal mental health strategy across Canada. Davies’ bill proposes increased screening, greater access to mental health specialists and measures to promote awareness and remove the stigma around issues like postpartum depression.

“Pregnancy and the year following the birth of a child can be very challenging for parents. The isolation, anxiety and financial stress caused by the pandemic have only made this worse. So it’s not surprising that, in Canada, the rates of women and men suffering from perinatal mental illness have doubled,” said Davies. “Early detection and effective treatment are critical for the health and well-being of parents and the emotional, cognitive and physical development of children. That’s why I’m calling on the federal government to provide a national perinatal mental health strategy to support Canadian families.”

A recent survey by the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (CPMHC) found that 95 per cent of Canadian health care practitioners believe that Canada’s current perinatal mental health services are insufficient.

“If heath care providers are telling us the system is broken, then we must listen and we must act now,” said Patricia Tomasi, CPMHC Co-Founder and Communications Director. “Too many moms, dads, and birthing persons are falling through the cracks.”

Sadly, advocacy groups point out that members of marginalized communities are often the ones falling through the cracks in the health care system.

“Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, people with disabilities, gender and sexual minority populations experience higher rates of perinatal mental illness,” said Jaime Charlebois, CPMHC Co-Founder and Research Director. “It’s time for action.”

Unlike the United Kingdom and Australia, the federal government does not have a comprehensive national framework to guide how health care practitioners should assess, diagnosis, treat, or provide follow-up to individuals suffering from perinatal mental health problems.

“There is more the Liberal government can do to ensure parents have the support they need to get and stay healthy. I’m hopeful they’ll work with us to create a nation perinatal mental health strategy for Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast,” added Davies.