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North Belfast woman calls for more mental health support for parents of premature and sick children

Baby Cormac survived for just seven days following his birth in May 2017

A NORTH Belfast woman whose baby lost his battle for life after being born at just 23 weeks has called for more mental health support for parents of premature and sick children.

Laura Kelly from Ardoyne went into spontaneous labour with her son Cormac born weighing just 671g.

The tiny boy was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital where he spent a week fighting for his life.

He passed away on May 21 2017.

Despite the dedicated care her first-born child received, Ms Kelly said there was "no support for my well-being".

She was speaking as new research from the premature and sick baby charity Bliss revealed that 80 per cent of parents questioned in a survey said their mental health suffered after time spent on a neonatal unit.

Just over a third said their mental health was "significantly worse", while the survey of 589 parents also found that almost a quarter had been diagnosed with anxiety after their neonatal experience.

The charity said five out of seven neonatal units in Northern Ireland do not have dedicated access to a mental health professional.

Standards for neonatal care across the UK suggest that parents should have access to psychological and social support, including a trained counsellor.

Baby Cormac

Describing her experience, Ms Kelly said: "The nurses there were so good, they're so stretched but they work so hard.

"You're wanting them to concentrate on your child, you want them to do all they can for your baby. But you're left to your own devices, you're in this bubble and everyone is focused on your child.

"I couldn't eat, struggled to sleep and was mentally drained. Despite how caring the nurses were, I found there was no support for my well-being, there's no professional help whatsoever.

"Following Cormac's death, I had to push and push for professional help, which I have now received.

"But it shouldn't have to be this way."

Caroline Lee-Davey from Bliss said: "The shocking findings of our latest research demonstrate the vital need for better mental health support for parents whilst their baby is on the neonatal unit and beyond.

“At present, none of the UK nations are reaching the national standard for providing psychological support to parents on units and our research demonstrates how detrimental this can be to parents’ health and well-being.

"Bliss calls for every UK government to ensure that mental health support is available to each parent who has a baby in neonatal care."

Laura Kelly from north Belfast

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