All posts by APP

APP Train New Peer Support Volunteers

19243321_1525222677551401_2333541685529317762_oIn June we were able to train 8 new Peer Support Volunteers. It is amazing to have the new volunteers up and running to ensure our Peer Support Service can continue meeting demand from mums and families affected by PP, both on the PPTalk forum, and in 1:1 messaging.

It was a wonderful day and really special to be together as women who have had PP and share our experiences. Three of our newly trained Peer Support Volunteers told us how they felt about the training day. 

Kat: Since the training, I’ve felt empowered and supported to provide responses on the online help forum, and to take on my very first “one to one” email support case. It’s not always easy. Sometimes peoples’ problems seem more complex than *just* PP. And of course everyone’s experience differs wildly. But there is always a way to empathise and reach out to others through our shared experience. And it is incredibly worthwhile and satisfying work. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to support others through this illness. When I was dreadfully ill myself my husband found the APP forum and received amazing support through it: practical, empathic, specialised and ongoing for many months. And now I can start doing the same for others – as a family, we have come “full circle”!

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Claire: It was really amazing to meet and spend a whole day training alongside other women who have suffered Postpartum Psychosis and to join an online community of peer supporters who are rallying together to transform their individual traumatic experiences into something positive for other people. I feel confident after the training that I know how to look after myself whilst being able to provide some lived experience advice and support to those who ask for it. I feel very honoured to have been given this training and I hope to provide the kind of help I needed at my worst point of the illness.

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Sabine: The reasons for my motivation in taking part in the ‘Peer Support Training’ I guess are multi-layered, unique and personal, – in a way signifying a milestone of where I have been and where I am today. 

I definitively wanted to feel more reassured and cushioned when responding to mums and family members on the forum. When joining the APP forum I did not feel on my own anymore; the numbness inside me had vanished, – the lid was opened and I was able to talk to compassionate and kind ladies on the forum.

Now there is a ‘SENSE OF BELONGING’, since meeting those very special women, not only the ones who organised the workshop, but the 7 other newcomers, who wanted to become volunteers. I feel happy, because my story is out there and shared by other females. I feel as if I have a voice. I have been able to tackle London and met some wonderful women, who were strangers to me.

I would like to thank APP and everybody involved for the location and choice of venue, the participation and contribution of workshop members, ‘the individual and special support’ before and during the event, enabling and creating a positive and relaxed atmosphere, but especially the superbly organised and very professionally-led workshop by Jess, Clare, Hannah, Ellie & Amy.

Our Peer Support Service is kindly supported by Comic Relief, The Allen Lane Foundation and the generosity of individual donors and fundraisers. 

Alice’s Inquest Verdict

 

Alice-Gibson Watt (photo courtesy of Sothebys)

Alice-Gibson Watt (photo courtesy of Sothebys)

The verdict from the inquest into the death of Alice Gibson-Watt makes for difficult reading and our thoughts and hearts are with the Gibson-Watt family at this dreadful time.

Postpartum Psychosis is a shocking and severe illness and much more must be done to prevent such tragedies. More research is needed to understand the causes; more must be done to inform and support families; more awareness, high quality training, more funding, more compassion and understanding is needed.

The BBC spoke to Anthony, the widower of Alice Gibson-Watt. He said “I had no idea about postpartum psychosis”. Watch here

We thank Alice’s friends, family, and workplaces for their support of APP in memory of Alice, raising funds to help us provide information, peer support, training, conduct research, campaign for better awareness, understanding, and specialist services for all who need it.

Our volunteers feel this loss terribly. Many know that this story could also have been theirs. We are passionately committed to working in all the areas needed to prevent tragedies occurring caused by this severe, distressing, but treatable postpartum mental illness, which affects around 1-2 in every 1000 families after childbirth. For most women and families, the outcome is positive and families recover, but the reality is that mental illness and suicide are still a leading cause of maternal death.

 

Alice’s Inquest

Alice Gibson-Watt

Alice Gibson-Watt

Our thoughts and hearts are with the Gibson-Watt family through this dreadful time.

Postpartum Psychosis is a shocking and severe illness and much more must be done to prevent such tragedies. More research is needed to understand the causes; more must be done to inform and support families; more awareness, high quality training and compassion is needed.
 
We thank Alice’s closest friend Katie, Alice’s family, Sotheby’s and the Antiques Roadshow for their support of APP in memory of Alice, raising funds to help us provide information, peer support, conduct research, campaign for better awareness, understanding, and specialist services for all that need it.
 
We wish things for Alice’s daughter could be different. Our volunteers feel this loss terribly. Many know that this story could have been theirs. We are passionately committed to working in all the areas needed to prevent tragedies occurring caused by this severe, distressing, but treatable postpartum mental illness, which affects around 1-2 in every 1000 families after childbirth. For most women and families, the outcome is positive and families recover, but the reality is that mental illness and suicide are still a leading cause of maternal death. 

If you would like to support APP, please donate to support Katie in her London Marathon attempt in memory of Alice – you can read her story here.

We are grateful that the BBC News report on Alice’s inquest links to APP

Regional Reps: Report from the North!

Hannah Bissett, Peer Support and Regional Reps Coordinator, tells us about a busy start to the year up north. 

P70527332017 so far has seen a real spike of APP involvement in the north, or so it feels!  After a joint training session for an Early Intervention Team in Wallasey, Merseyside with Emma Odell in February, Emma has also been busy with 2 sessions with Manchester University.  She has also made a link with the Greater Manchester & Eastern Cheshire Clinical Network, filming a patient experience video ahead of a conference in June.  I have also travelled across to film for this and we are both really looking forward to seeing the final cut.  The Network are really interested in linking further with APP in the future – watch this space…

This month I have also been to Hull, not once but twice.  The first was on 10th March to contribute to the Institute of Health Visitors PMH Champions training, with Melita Walker.  We are hoping that this will lead to further collaboration with iHV, to share further PP stories through Expert by Experience talks. The second visit to Hull was on 24th March, as part of a 2-day PMH conference held by the University of Hull & Humber NHS Foundation Trust.  I had an APP stand and presented my experience of PP as part of the second day.  Both were well received and further links made – perhaps even for a third trip to Hull in the not too distant future. Well, it is the European City of Culture 2017!!

My link with Leeds MBU led to a session as part of training for their team on 16th March, together with staff who will be working on a new community perinatal team in Bradford.  As one of the areas recently successful in phase 1 of the NHS England community funding, Leeds are “buddying” Bradford in designing and training for their service. It was also good to talk to the staff there about the Yorkshire & Humber Outreach service, which launched a year ago in March 2016, and possible gaps in the Y&H area where we could do further joint work to reach other maternity and general mental health teams.

I have also been linking in with others around the country who are doing Regional Rep things for APP or are interested in getting involved, including Sally Wilson whose recent BBC Eye on Wales programme was such a powerful story, and well received. 

Now I’m officially in post I am looking forward to catching up properly with all the other Regional Reps, to hear about how APP is raising awareness and working with services in their areas. If you are interested in being a Regional Rep for APP, drop me a line: hannah@app-network.org

Looking ahead, I will be returning to County Durham & Darlington’s International Day of the Midwife in early May, and dropping in on the way home to “Hope” at Edge Bar, Stockton, a series of events to coincide with the Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, run by a local PMH group www.raindropstorainbows.co.uk.  

May also sees APP’s Music4Mums to coincide with World Maternal Mental Health Day on 3rd May.  One of the events planned is with my local community orchestra in Ripon; I might even be persuaded to play, but need to get my cello in working order, as I’m very rusty these days!  More here on how you can be involved: https://www.app-network.org/m4mums

Spring Peer Support Project Update

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Things are going well with our Peer Support project.

The Comic Relief grant started at the beginning of March which means that Ellie and Hannah are now employed 2 days a week to manage and develop the Peer Support Project.

Our online peer support forum continues to have many active members. We also co-hosted a PND Hour twitter chat on 1st March about postpartum psychosis, which went really well. It was amazing to have so many courageous women together talking so publicly about their experience of PP.

We have started planning our training for new Peer Support Volunteers which will take place in June. We have a list of people who are interested in being peer supporters. They include people who are already contributing a lot to our online forum, and also several people who have accessed our one to one peer support, so have lived experience of being supported themselves.

Ellie has begun developing a pilot face to face peer support group for women who have had PP who live in Sussex. Ellie is collaborating particularly with the Sussex Early Intervention in Psychosis team  and Ellie and two women who have had Postpartum Psychosis have met two times already. The meetings are very informal. We also have more women who are interested in joining the group so it looks likely to grow. This is a really exciting development in our Peer Support Project  and we hope to facilitate more face to face peer support in two other areas of the UK, yet to be decided. 

Ellie, Hannah and Jess are busy developing the project plan as well as putting monitoring and evaluation in place for Comic Relief. We are also submitting another application to the Big Lottery, in an attempt to secure further funding for this vital work. 

Sue & Iain’s 50th Birthday Fundraising

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Iain with baby Alex

We are so grateful to Iain and Sue McKendrick who set up a fundraising page for APP on the occasion of their 50th birthdays. Iain told us,

“We were delighted when we discovered what APP was doing, because 16 years ago, when Sue was ill, there was so little advice and information available.  We were incredibly lucky that various friends rallied round to help me, that my mum was able to come and stay for a month or so, and that the local Social Work department was willing to assign some help once Sue was home and I needed to go back to work… but it could all have been so different.”

Iain’s birthday was in July and Sue’s is in December so they threw a big party in between and included the link to the fundraising page on the invitations asking for donations rather than presents. They managed to raise over £700 for APP, so a very big thank you to Sue and Iain!

Sue, as a 50th birthday objective, has collated a collection of her poetry and is having it published.  There is a section in the book where she talks about PP, and some of the poems are about that period in our lives, and in reference to her experience, she has called the book ‘Method in my Madness’. Read more about Sue’s story including some of her powerful poems here.

 

Kayley’s Postpartum Psychosis Recovery Story

Kayley‘It’s time to pack everything up and take our little boy to day 5 of his postnatal checks, I haven’t slept properly for nearly 6 days and I’m breastfeeding every 2-3 hours 24/7 wow, well done to me!  Things are going great, I had a fantastic labour and water birth, a quick release back home and now my little family is complete.

We arrive for his hearing test and he passes straight away. I am buoyant, laughing and in great spirits going back and forth in conversation with the staff.

We get home and I sit down on the sofa with my beautiful family and suddenly burst into tears. We are all there having a lovely group hug and I get a sudden realisation that I have everything I have ever wanted in my life. 

“I don’t want my bubble to burst” I tell my husband going from tears to a feeling of absolute elation. I feel myself slowly inhale the euphoric sense of happiness and contentment that I have never felt before. I am on an absolute high! 

After a few moments my feelings change and I feel as though I want to go and lay down after all that emotional release. I deduce that I must need to take a rest but as I lay on the bed upstairs I experience not one but two panic attacks back to back. 

I call out to my husband to come and help me. The types of panic attacks I then experience mean that I become increasingly less responsive. I turn cold, get pins and needles and I can’t speak. The worst part is that although I cannot move my body at all I am still completely aware of everything around me, I can hear my son crying and my husband on the phone to the emergency services and there’s nothing I can do about it.

After several numbing minutes I come round and out of the panic attack telling a lady on the phone that “I’m totally overwhelmed and can’t comprehend looking after my children on my own”  Where did this come from? After I put down the receiver the next panic attack hits me.

My natural instinct as a person is to get up and fight against what’s going on, but there was no way that all my confidence, fight and proactive personality were going to save me this time. It felt as though I tried to get back up only to be hit again by a ruthless onslaught. 

I didn’t know it yet but I was already experiencing the start of postpartum psychosis. What followed was the worst few weeks of my life and I would never wish it on anybody.

I had home visits from the out of hours GP but my case was then flagged up by my local health visitor. When she came for a routine check it nearly triggered another big panic attack. I was hiding upstairs and couldn’t bear the thought of having anyone in my home, it was just too much.

As a result I was referred to my local mental health care team and my symptoms were diagnosed as episodes of psychosis. This meant that I would have short periods of feeling fine and then everything would change in an instant and the psychotic episodes would hit me and take control. 

I don’t remember very much at all of the first few weeks after my son was born but when I reflect on it now, it was like I was living in the background of my head. Everything was running on autopilot and my mind was racing at top speed. It was very much a case of the lights were on but no one was home. 

The most decisive course of action was for me to rest and sleep and try to get my energy back but my mind wouldn’t rest and my moods kept switching and changing. My thoughts and feelings were on an emotional rollercoaster.

When I tried to sleep my mind would race and it was filled with noise, mixed messages and a frantic surge of negative thoughts. I would have sudden and terrifying thoughts that I was about to lose everything in my life, including my family, my business, and everything was going to be taken away from me.

If you had opened up my head it felt as though it would be like a circuit of wires firing all over the place in a frantic display of activity and restlessness. 

I felt as though I had lost the ability to fall asleep. Even though I was exhausted my mind wouldn’t switch off. If I did get some sleep I would awaken feeling as though I had been asleep all night only to find it was a matter of 45 mins or so after I had first put my head down. I had lost my perception of time and everything became an effort.

My general feelings from day to day consisted of panic, anxiety, anger and restlessness, I was paranoid and thinking completely irrationally and I felt guilty that I was putting all the responsibility of child care onto my husband, as well as have him trying to look after me too.

My moods would drastically change and it felt as though all my thoughts and feelings were happening to me and there was no way I could control how I felt. It’s horrible to live in a way when you don’t know when the next change will come from or what may trigger a change in mood. 

I didn’t recognise the woman in the mirror, eyes sunken in the back of my head, a vagrant empty look, pale and off colour with no sparkle or light behind me. Why was this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this and when will this all be over?

Over the coming weeks and months I began my recovery without being hospitalised or using medication.  I was able to stay at home around my family and be a part of my children’s lives and that really helped me through. With the support of my wonderful husband, private life coaching and my local mental health service I slowly got better. The mood swings became further apart and less drastic and my sleep started to improve.

Some underlying anxiety followed that made it difficult for me to regulate my everyday life again but I was able to identify triggers and put in place strategies to help me stay calm and make progress. At first it really was a case of taking one day at a time and trying something new as and when I felt comfortable. I had to be patient and not too hard on myself whilst at the same time recognising my progress and seeing how far I had come.

Postpartum psychosis was the most distressing and difficult thing I have ever experienced but I have come through it and got better. I am on the other side now and I can move on with my life. The whole experience has made me appreciate what’s important in my life and I’m sure it has made me a stronger person. I value my family and my health so much more and that fresh perspective is one that I will take forward to enjoy motherhood and family life.’

Katy’s Story Gets APP in the Daily Mail

katytodayCongratulations to APP Media Volunteer, Katy Chachou, who pulled out all the stops to get her story told in a sensitive, informative and positive way by the Daily Mail.

APP was contacted by freelance journalist Jane Feinmann following the paper’s recent report on the tragic case of Alice Gibson-Watt

Katy and her husband George were interviewed for the piece and a photographer sent to get pictures of mother and daughter today. Katy even agreed to be contacted while on holiday abroad to make the article happen.

Also included are some great quotes from APP Chair, Giles Berrisford, alongside informed comments from perinatal mental health experts Dr Judy Shakespeare and Dr Carrie Ladd from the Royal College of General Practitioners. 

It’s a great piece combining a traumatic personal experience with expert opinion. It demonstrates that PP can happen to any new mother but that full recovery is possible. We hope it will help raise awareness of PP among a large and new audience. Happily, the online article also carries a link to APP’s website at the foot and embeds our stigma-busting video. 

Huge thanks to Katy and Giles for their excellent work! 

Helping Hands Grand Sale for APP

A Derbyshire-based group of women who collectively call themselves “Helping Hands” have pledged to support APP this summer by organising sales of clothes, bric a brac , jewellery , children’s items and much more besides . 
 
The last of these brilliant events, the “Grand Sale” takes place on Saturday 10th September and these lovely ladies are asking APP trustees , members and friends for contributions of any unwanted items . They are prepared to collect from a wide area including Staffs , Northants, Derbyshire, Cotswolds. 
 
If you can donate please let Heather know ASAP : email heather@app-network.org
 
The sale will be a treat for treasure hunters with lots of great stuff to rummage through, some brand new and all very affordable. Tea and cofee and homemade food will also be for sale. See you there! 
 
Warmest of thanks go to “Helping Hands ” for supporting APP this summer . 
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Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit Launched

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The Royal College of General Practitioners has launched a new Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit designed to support GPs and other healthcare professionals as a go-to collation of resources that could support them to deliver the care their patients with perinatal mental health conditions need. 

But the Toolkit isn’t just for GPs. It contains plenty of patient and even partner resources including APP’s Insider Guides and Peer Support Service. 

Dr Carrie Ladd, RCGP Clinical Fellow for Perinatal Mental Health, and lead on the PMH toolkit, said it “has been developed in consultation with women who have had perinatal mental health problems, and we hope it will give them the confidence to approach health professionals, and be better informed about their choices and what they should expect.”

APP Chair, Dr Giles Berrisford gave a keynote presentation at the launch talking about NHS England’s strategy for transforming perinatal mental health. Following the hashtag #PMHtoolkit on Twitter showed how positively the Toolkit is being received and a sense of optimism about the future of perinatal mental health services. 

Find out more, take a look at the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit on the RCGP website