All posts by Jessie Hunt

International Fathers Mental Health Day

For International Fathers Mental Health Day (21 June 2021), Simon, Partner Peer Support Facilitator for Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), shares a little of his own experience of supporting someone with postpartum psychosis and the effect it can have across the family.

Spotlight on postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis (PP) - never even heard of it? Neither had I but it would shortly become one of the biggest learning experiences I’d ever endured and really tested my mental well-being.

In the first couple of weeks after my wife gave birth, I had noticed subtle changes in her mood, but, as a first-time father, I didn’t really know what was ‘usual’ or ‘unusual’ after birth. A few weeks later and these changes took a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse, things became very scary, very quickly.

Over the next few days, she woke in the early hours ‘ghost like’, her mood had plummeted, she was anxious, confused, pacing around the house, having delusions and hallucinations, ultimately it all ended in a 999 call.  I found myself in complete turmoil and throughout our journey with PP, had times where I went through every emotion possible - from being terrified, to feeling isolated, worried about the future and even feeling guilt-ridden for decisions I’d had to take; with little sleep, the pressure I felt was enormous, however, the support we received from family, friends and eventually specialist health professionals treating my wife was vital.

Now working as the Partner Peer Support Facilitator for Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), the leading national charity for women, partners and families affected by PP, we know how difficult PP can be and how it affects not only the women who directly experience it, but also the partners and families who watch their loved ones go through it. This trauma can have a lasting effect on the wider family’s mental health, if not supported appropriately.

Father’s mental health

For partners, seeing the symptoms of PP first-hand can be a truly traumatic experience. The following are just a couple of the many quotes from partners:

“She just stood there and screamed.”

“Somehow she had changed the world and she was watching the news, in the belief that she would see herself on it and they would report on what she had done.”

During the initial crisis, many partners describe feeling like their world has been turned upside down, with little or no control over the situation. They often talk of not knowing what was happening, feeling alone and scared; desperate to find information and to help their partner.

Postpartum psychosis as a father or partner, feels very much like a journey with a number of possible stages, from the initial crisis, potential admission to hospital, returning home and recovery - all of which bring different feelings and concerns to the fore. Just holding it together, having to keep strong for your wife or family members can sometimes see you not considering or letting on how worried you are, which in turn can lead to fathers suffering with their own mental ill-health.

What is postpartum psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a severe but treatable form of mental illness. It usually starts within the first couple of days to weeks after childbirth. Some develop symptoms very quickly whereas for others, symptoms can be more gradual or come and go.  50% of women experience postpartum psychosis “out of the blue” with no previous history of mental health problems.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms often include:

• Confusion or racing thoughts

• Feeling unusually high or elated

• Being unable to or not needing to sleep

• Beliefs that are unusual or concerning to others

• Seeing, hearing or sensing things that others can’t

• Anxiety

There are a great many other symptoms that can be experienced and you can find more information by visiting the following link: www.app-network.org/early-symptoms

Getting help for your partner

It is important that PP is always treated as a medical emergency, which requires rapid intervention and is best treated in a specialised Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). With the right treatment and support, women with PP do make a full recovery and families are able to move on with their lives together.

• If your partner is under the care of a mental health team, contact them or your Crisis Team

• If your partner hasn’t been in mental health services before:

o See your GP urgently (the same day) or contact NHS 111

o If you cannot see your GP, go to your local A&E department

• If you think there is imminent danger (e.g. that your partner may hurt herself) call 999 and ask for an ambulance

Getting help for you

• Talk with your wife/partner’s medical team

• See your own GP

• Confide in a trusted family member or friend

• Speak to APP, see below and our website, for all our possible support options too

What’s the outlook for a family that has experienced PP?

Extremely good, with the right treatment the majority of women go on to make a full recovery and return to their normal selves, embracing motherhood and enjoying family life. While recovery can often be a long journey, there is hope and all of our storytellers and volunteers at APP, both women and their partners, are proof that people can and do recover.

Support at APP

We know that partners contact us at many different stages throughout their journey – whether in the early days of the crisis, partway through the journey or, in some instances, even years later.

APP are here to support you along the journey, no matter when you feel you need it. Our website has lots of information, guides and links to getting help:

Action on Postpartum Psychosis | National charity supporting women and families

• 1:1 chat support via email, call or video

• Resources for Partners - https://www.app-network.org/partners

• PP Insider Guides – includes a partner guide - https://www.app-network.org/what-is-pp/app-guides

• APP Partners Group on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/APPpartnersgroup

• Partner virtual café

Please do get in touch if we can help you, see our website or email app@app-network.org

More on Action for Postpartum Psychosis

APP is the leading charity supporting women, partners and families affected by PP. It’s a collaborative project run by people who have lived experience of PP, specialist health professionals and academic experts from Birmingham & Cardiff universities; our aims include:

• To provide up to date information to women and their families who have experienced PP

• To facilitate a peer support network for women and their families

• To increase awareness of PP, its symptoms, management and impact among health professionals and the general public

• To facilitate research into all aspects of PP

• To advocate for improved services for women and their families

APP announces new ambassadors to mark 10 years of raising awareness of postpartum psychosis 

Today (Tuesday 19 January) we’re proud to celebrate our 10-year anniversary as a charity.

 To celebrate the day, and to drive increased awareness and action going forward, we’re absolutely thrilled to announce our first ambassadors: poet, author and illustrator, Laura Dockrill, who experienced postpartum psychosis in 2018, and her husband, Hugo White, a musician and record producer, formerly of The Maccabees.

Jess Heron, CEO, Action on Postpartum Psychosis said: “We’ve precipitated a sea-change in services, support and awareness of postpartum psychosis in the UK over the last ten years, but we know there is still so much more to do. Working with Laura and Hugo will enable us to amplify our voice and reach people we might not otherwise be able to reach. Ambassadors play a hugely important role in getting the message out there and we’re absolutely delighted to have two passionate, experienced and influential individuals flying the flag for all the women and families who have been impacted by postpartum psychosis.”

APP is a collaboration between inspirational women with lived experience, world-leading academic researchers and specialist health professionals. Over the past ten years, we have grown rapidly and now provide an award-winning national peer support service, comprehensive patient information, training for frontline professionals, a network of regional volunteers, awareness raising media work and the facilitation of research into the causes and treatments of the illness.

Laura Dockrill said: “Experiencing postpartum psychosis was bewildering and frightening. We had no idea what was happening and the symptoms left me feeling confused, afraid and, at times, suicidal.

“Jess and the team at APP reached out to me while I was in recovery, bringing with them a boatload of love, warmth and hope, sharing information, and introducing me to an amazing network of women that I have been engaged with ever since.

“I know from personal experience just how vital APP’s work is, and that’s why I’m so proud that Hugo and I will become ambassadors. I hope I can help to reach others who may be struggling because, as I now know, there is always hope and light - we just need to show people how and where to find it.”

Postpartum psychosis is a severe and frightening postnatal mental illness that affects 1,400 women and their families every year in the UK – from all backgrounds. Half of cases are ‘out of the blue’ with women having no history of mental illness. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, mania, depression, restlessness, anxiety, confusion, and unusual behaviour  - which can manifest within days of childbirth and escalate very quickly. Most women need to be admitted rapidly to a Mother and Baby Unit for inpatient treatment. However, with the right care, women can fully recover.

Hugo White said: “Postpartum psychosis is a traumatic experience for all involved - it’s totally devastating seeing the person you love in such pain. That’s why I’m keen to support APP’s partner peer support work. Having someone to talk to who really gets what you’ve been through, or what you’re still going through, makes a huge difference.”

As of today, we currently manage seven regional peer support café groups; a support forum that has over 2,800 lived experience users sharing experiences and receiving support; three NHS partnership contracts providing direct support to women in Mother and Baby Units; over 70 active regional volunteers; and we have reached almost 10,000 multidisciplinary health professionals through lived experience talks and training. We’ve also facilitated a wealth of in depth research on postpartum psychosis and will this year be finalising our second report into the need for, and impact of, Mother and Baby Units, as well as releasing our own report into the impact of APP over the past 10 years – due out in the Autumn.

APP has been a research network since 1996 and a charity since 2011. It is hosted and supported by the University of Birmingham Medical School, The National Centre for Mental Health in Cardiff and The Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Trust.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us all at APP!

APP's Director, Dr Jess Heron, writes:
 
2020 has been a year that none of us will forget. All of us at APP would like to wish you a very happy and a relaxing Christmas.
 
Read our Festive letter, to find out about APP’s impact in 2020. The past year has been especially hard for new mums and families, and the mental health of all of us.
 
Although we may be some time away from life returning to normal, we are looking forward to the year ahead. It will be our charity’s 10 year anniversary in 2021. We will look back at the changes that APP has brought about in the UK over the decade. We’ll report on our learning and how we could create change for women and families affected by postpartum psychosis outside the UK. In 2021, we plan to continue to build our peer support services, particularly: extending the regions supported by our café groups, continuing our online wellbeing activities, increasing support to partners, grandparents, and underrepresented communities, as well as the support we are able to offer to bereaved families. We are planning to add e-modules to our health professional training offering. We have a new Insider Guide out in the New Year. We have some exciting campaigns planned that we will launch in January. We are collaborating on lots of research studies, and we will begin to share findings from these next year.
 
As we know too well at APP, for some women and families, Christmas and New Year is a difficult time. Grief and loss may be amplified at this time of year. Some may have loved ones spending Christmas in a Mother and Baby Unit, or struggling with symptoms during the recovery period. We are thinking of you at this time. Our peer supporters are here to support every day of the year on our Forum. You are not on your own.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and happy festive period.
...
 
The APP forum is open for peer support 365 days a year.

Hollyoaks and APP collaboration: Christmas 2020 storyline

Action on Postpartum Psychosis has collaborated with British soap opera Hollyoaks to help create one of the soap’s biggest storylines for Christmas 2020 and into the new year.

This sees the character Liberty Savage (played by actress Jessamy Stoddart), become ill with postpartum psychosis following the birth of her child in September.

The Hollyoaks production team talked to mental health experts and women with first-hand experience of the illness to help create a realistic storyline for Liberty. APP Director, Dr Jess Heron, and APP Coordinators with personal experience of postpartum psychosis, Hannah Bissett and Dr Sally Wilson, have worked closely with the Hollyoaks team since February. APP’s team have commented on draft scripts and reviewed footage to help shape the postpartum psychosis storyline. Members of APP’s support network and clinical experts have also met (virtually) with actress Jessamy Stoddart to share their personal stories.

The Hollyoaks postpartum psychosis storyline has been building since September, when character Liberty Savage gave birth. Liberty has been showing signs that all might not be well, and things will reach crisis-point in December, when she will be admitted to hospital over Christmas.

Catch up on Hollyoaks episodes here >

APP Director Dr Jess Heron said:

Although Liberty’s story can't represent the story of all women who have postpartum psychosis - every experience of the illness is unique - APP hopes that the Hollyoaks portrayal will go some way to raise much-needed awareness of this illness, help reduce stigma, and help those who develop postpartum psychosis get diagnosed and treated more quickly, ideally in a specialist Mother and Baby Unit.

For media enquiries concerning the Hollyoaks storyline on postpartum psychosis, please email media@app-network.org

Read personal experiences of postpartum psychosis here >

Support APP this festive season

We would like to thank you for your support this year. 2020 has been a difficult year for many people. Separation from family and friends has been a challenge for us all, but isolation and lack of support has been particularly hard for pregnant women, new parents and those recovering from postpartum psychosis (PP).

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, APP’s priority has been to support women and families who need us.

We’ve concentrated on: providing high-quality peer support; setting up new services to help people connect during this time; signposting pregnant and postnatal women to the right services; and disseminating expert information. This year we have:

  • matched 246 women or partners with a recovered volunteer to receive one-to-one peer support.
  • supported 250 people a month on our Peer Support Forum. The Forum now has more than 2,700 registered users, and is open 365 days a year, providing a place for anyone affected by PP to talk about their experiences and find support from volunteers.
  • launched a new video call 1:1 peer support service.
  • have continued to hold regular café group meet ups (via video call and socially distanced walks) and added a new café group for North Wales taking our number of regional social groups to seven.
  • increased our support for partners, with a new Partners Coordinator, Simon, and more dad volunteers trained in peer support.
  • reached millions of people with our social media campaigns and media pieces, including developing our #MumWatch graphic - raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis – which has been seen by 278,500 people.
  • delivered training and lived experience talks to more than 1,700 multidisciplinary health professionals.
  • worked locally and nationally to help improve services and campaign for the needs of women and families who develop PP during the pandemic to be met.
  • set up lots of new online social activities, for example: the APP Book Club; a Running, Walking and Cycling group; art and craft activities, and more to help people stay connected.

2020 has brought financial challenges for maternal mental health charities at a time when support has never been more vital. If you would like to support APP’s festive appeal financially you can: 

If you’re not able to make a donation this year, you can help us in other ways as we try to break down the stigma surrounding perinatal mental illness and raise awareness of postpartum psychosis. Please share APP’s posts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and talk to whoever you can about the importance of maternal mental health charities and specialist perinatal services. Look out for lots of PP and APP press pieces over Christmas.

Thank you for supporting us through this difficult year.

Send festive e-cards and support APP this year

Browse APP's wonderful festive designs to send as e-cards to your loved ones.

Send APP e-cards in 5 steps:

  1. Choose your e-card design from dontsendmeacard.com
  2. Write your personalised message
  3. Donate the cost of cards and stamps
  4. Send your e-card to up to 100 people with just one donation
  5. Feel good in knowing that you've helped support APP's work
Send festive e-cards and donate the cost of cards and stamps to APP > 

Thank you to our e-card artists this year

The artworks for our festive e-cards this year have been created by mums with lived experience of postpartum psychosis, their children and families, by staff at Mother and Baby Units and our supporters. Thank you to everyone who got in touch to share their designs for our e-card appeal.

With thanks to:

  • Beth, age 9
  • The Margaret Oates Mother and Baby Unit, Nottingham
  • Hannah, age 7
  • Alexis Stevens
  • MotherFeels
  • Seth, age 5
  • Jane Hamilton-Whatling
  • The Ribblemere Mother and Baby Unit, Chorley
  • Jocelyn Ellams
  • Anneliese Appleby
  • Gillian Seale
  • Sarah Spring
  • Faye Sheel
  • Ada-May, age 5
  • and to everyone else who sent in a card for our appeal

Run for APP at the London Landmarks Half Marathon!

APP is looking for five enthusiastic runners to take part in the London Landmarks Half Marathon on Sunday 23 May 2021, could it be you?!

About the event
The London Landmarks Half Marathon on 23 May 2021 takes in some of the capital's world-famous landmarks on closed roads in central London and is the only half marathon to go through both the City of London and City of Westminster.

While participants run past some of London’s most spectacular landmarks, the event will highlight how we are coming together as a nation during the Covid-19 pandemic. LLHM will be honouring the key workers, re-creating some of the fun moments of lockdown life, and remembering the kind actions of neighbours.

The race starts by The Strand, finishes by Downing Street and includes views of London’s most iconic landmarks including Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, Nelson’s Column, the Gherkin, the Shard, the Tower of London and the London Eye.


You can find out lots more about the event here > 

How to sign up
If you would like to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon and raise funds for Action on Postpartum Psychosis at the same time, please get in touch with Kelly via fundraising@app-network.org. Thank You!

Please fill in our Peer Support survey

We need your help! If you have used APP's Forum, email service, video calls, café meet-up groups or had contact with an APP Volunteer in 2019 and 2020, please complete this short survey >

We would also like to hear from any of our volunteers who have delivered peer support during the same period.

Your views are so important because they will help us improve APP’s peer support, as well as report to our funders on the importance of our work. We would like as many people as possible to take part so that we can show how many people our project is reaching.

The survey can be completed anonymously and is confidential.  Any comments or quotes you may wish to add will also remain anonymous. It will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

It's vital to everyone who works for APP that our peer support is as good as it possibly can be. So please, grab a cup of tea and let us know what you think, below!

With warm thanks for your help,
The APP Team

Morning Song: Bijan Sheibani’s short film on Film4

Bijan Sheibani’s short film ‘Morning Song’ is now available to watch on Film4. It follows the story of Yasmin, a mum with postpartum psychosis, on her journey for treatment in a Mother & Baby Unit.

Bijan Sheibani is best known as a theatre director, directing ‘Dance Nation’ by Clare Barron for the Almeida, ‘The Brothers Size’ by Tarell McCraney for the Young Vic, ‘Barber Shop Chronicles’ by Inua Ellams for the National Theatre, and writing and directing ‘The Arrival’ for the Bush Theatre.

Bijan’s mother suffered from postpartum psychosis after his birth. He worked closely with Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) as he researched his film, spending time with APP’s Director, meeting partners and women with lived experience. He visited both the Birmingham Mother & Baby Unit and the Exeter Mother & Baby Unit, while it was being built.

Speaking to Film4, Bijan said: “This film was very much about trying to get as close to someone’s experience as possible.” “My ideas can start quite vague and as something that I’m figuring out or thinking about... if an idea is really good, you’ll never figure it out. And that’s why it needs to be turned into a piece of art, so that everybody can look at it together and wonder.”

Director of Action on Postpartum Psychosis, Dr Jess Heron, reviews the film:

Bijan Sheibani's film ‘Morning Song’ is a 15 minute Short, but it is a case of ‘Multum in Parvo’ (much in little). In the film’s silences, in the withholding, in the lack of dialogue and intimate, raw close ups, Bijan captures the essence and enormity of the experience of postpartum psychosis. He has crystallised, in a masterful, quiet drama, something of the experience of all women and partners who suffer the desperation of this temporary postnatal illness. 

The film does not have answers, yet with the deftest of touches, through shots of slight smiles, the gentlest of baby sucklings, or the balm of water, he manages to convey hope and healing. Similarly, he shows the kindness and understanding of those charged with Yasmin’s care; the regenerative power of sleep and safety; and optimism, in the yearning gaze of the most perfect baby.

Bijan’s film is remarkable; many mothers (and their partners) who have been through postpartum psychosis will feel: this was my truth.”

Watch Director Bijan Sheibani’s short film Morning Song on Film4 >