Lack of support puts young mothers at risk of mental health problems

Recent estimates found 50,000 mothers in the UK were under the age of 20.1. The study indicated that 53% of young mothers experienced post-partum depression. Lack of support with mental health difficulties can have a negative effect on parenting and on the child’s psychological development.

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The ‘Young Mums Together’ project was created by the Mental Health Foundation, and funded by Comic Relief, to provide support for a range of young mums’ needs within a group context. The group helped reduce young mothers’ isolation by providing a network of supportive peers who shared similar past experiences and future challenges.

The group served as an awareness-raising platform around mental health problems and paid attention to removing stigma and offering referral routes to services. The groups provided a route to signposting and referrals for further support for young mothers, from parenting guidance, to careers advice and counselling services.

The rate of teenage pregnancies remains higher in the UK than in most other European countries. Young mothers are also at a higher risk of postpartum depression than average which, if unchecked, can have long-term consequences for both the mother and her child. Appropriately tailored support services can mediate many of the practical and psychological difficulties that young parents experience. Yet in some areas there is a wide gap in appropriate services for young parents and where services are in place, young parents often show a reluctance to engage with professional support.

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In response to this, the Mental Health Foundation is launching the ‘Young Mums Together’ report and a ‘How To’ guide to running young parents’ services, which offers useful tips and strategies for professionals to deliver dynamic and engaging young parents support services.

Eva Cyhlarova, Head of Research at the Mental Health Foundation:

“Appropriately tailored services can reduce risks associated with early parenthood, for both mothers and children. Young mums require support with a range of difficulties as they face several major life changes in their teenage years. A comprehensive service for young mothers would provide support with parenting, mental health needs, relationship difficulties, benefits, housing, social engagement, and employment. We hope that our ‘How to’ guide helps professionals get young parents engaged with the support that they need to help protect their mental health.”

A Young mum from the group added:

“People may feel slightly embarrassed but they need to understand that if there is something wrong with them and they need someone to talk to about their mental health issues, it’s good to find help earlier. I don’t want my baby to grow up the way I did. I don’t want her to be pregnant at 15. I want her to grow up and be extremely happy.”

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