Category Archives: News

An invaluable visit to Bluebell!

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With thanks to funding from Comic Relief, our Peer Support Coordinators, Ellie and Hannah, and Director, Jess, were able to travel to Bristol to meet with members of the Bluebell peer support team, to share ideas and hear about each other’s projects, both of which are funded by Comic Relief.

Here at APP we are in the process of developing and trialling face to face peer support, and so it was so invaluable to hear Bluebell’s experiences as this is the support they provide. It was particularly helpful to hear about what information they ask families to give them, and their contact and relationship with outside agencies. At APP we have delivered all (or nearly all) of our peer support to date online and expanding face to face meet-ups feel like a natural progression… It’s also something that our women and families often ask for – we know how isolating PP can be and meeting others can be such a “lightbulb moment”. But we are also really conscious that we need to get it right, so speaking to another organisation which is already doing it so well was really valuable.

It was really helpful to hear how they explain to people who use the service the limits of confidentiality, such as around issues of safeguarding and think about how this translates from what we already do online. Bluebell also shared the forms that they use to collect and record information and it was good to see that some of this was covered in the things we had already thought of – plus other documents and ways of working gave us further points to consider.

It was interesting to hear about the different support they offer: groups held at their centre in Bristol, and individual support provided to people in their homes, and to discuss risk management and lone working policies. It was useful to talk about the different ways of involving professionals and making use of clinical expertise, while still keeping a focus on peer support. A key part of APP’s face to face peer support will be social groups, which fits with our aim of building a national PP community and alleviating the loneliness that women and families affected by PP can sometimes feel.

It was also wonderful just to connect with other passionate colleagues and share our personal experiences of perinatal mental illness: there is always a solidarity, understanding and power in those two little words: “me too!”.

Thank you so much Comic Relief  for your commitment to facilitating connection and collaboration – this meeting will inform our practice as we develop APP’s peer support services throughout the UK.

APP Peer Support Volunteer training in Bristol!


On 3rd February 2018, APP held another successful Peer Support Volunteer training day at the fantastic Bluebell Place in Bristol. 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 another wonderful day and really special to be together as women who have had PP and share our experiences. Two of our new Peer Support Volunteers told us how they felt about the training day:

“The training day was really well organised, there was a lovely welcome from Ellie, Hannah, Jenny and Jess and we were all made to feel valued. It was an emotional day for me at times as this was the first occasion I had met any other mothers who had also been through PP and it was touching to hear about the amazing support offered to mothers and families experiencing the devastating illness.

I would highly recommend this training to any one else who would like to use their own experience of PP to be able to support others going through similar times.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”


“Since becoming a Regional Rep in June 2017, I have had various opportunities to interact with mums who have had PP, practitioners interested in increasing awareness of perinatal mental health as well as being able to educate other groups and individuals by talking about my experiences.

As part of this outreach, I contacted the local police training headquarters. A woman suffering from a severe episode of PP may be detained under the mental health act, it could be the Police that are involved with this. I approached the training headquarters to see if APP could provide training for officers to help recognise and understand any signs or symptoms, as well as be able to signpost the family to support. While the training session were too full to include a session on PP, they have included an article on their intranet ensuring that all trainees have access to information and links to APP should they ever come across it.

My experience of PP was while I was living in Brazil and through research on the internet I found APP and its peer support forum on Health Unlocked. My main support, besides my husband, was through the APP peer support forum. There I was able to talk about my experiences and feelings without judgement and was signposted to areas of help.

Last week, I took part in peer support volunteer training and am now an official volunteer on the forum! The day-long training involved discussing online listening skills, the needs of users and skills needed by volunteers. It was a great opportunity to put faces to names, learn more about PP and APP and generally be in the company of some inspiring women! It’s wonderful to be able to offer the support that I found invaluable to others.

As well as volunteering with APP, I also volunteer in my local area with Home-Start, a charity that supports families with children under 5. As part of my training with them I was able to discuss and enlighten the trainees and organisers about PP and APP. Home-Start is an extremely valuable charity supporting families who are struggling with the chaos of having a young family. I know that another Regional Rep was supported by her local Home-Start after her episode of PP. It has been great using my training and experiences from Home-Start with APP and vice versa.

Coming up next month, I will be talking to Institute of Health Visitors at the PMH and Infant MH Champions training in Manchester as part of the lived experience section of their training. This is will be another invaluable opportunity to reach out to professionals in the field.”

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

APP reflects on ‘I’m Fine’ PMH training in Devon


APP were delighted to be invited to take part in the Devon Partnership NHS Trust’s ‘I’m Fine’ perinatal mental health training events earlier this year. The three ‘I’m Fine’ training days took place in various locations throughout Devon and Cornwall and were aimed at any front line staff who might come into contact with a women in the perinatal period to understand how to manage people respectfully and assist them; to recognise that when women say ‘I’m fine’ they might not in truth mean this.

Three of APP’s Expert by Experience speakers attended all three events, alongside speakers from other charities including Bluebell and Dads in Mind, to help staff engage and understand why they need to go that extra mile.

Jessie attended the first session in Saltash, Cornwall, she said:
It was so good to have input to “I’m Fine” as a lived experience speaker. I especially enjoyed the Q&A session, which included good responses and feedback from the delegates, and found it interesting to add tips on treatment and recovery from my own experience. The theatre production was very powerful too. It is so important to show that recovery from PP is possible and to try to make a difference to professionals, and the people they will support in the future.”

I'mFineFlyerNaomi attended the second session at Exeter racecourse and said:
The I’m Fine SW event in Exeter was a unique and exciting event to be part of. The mixture of forum theatre and group table discussions ensured that lived experience remained at the heart of the event. Friction is a powerful theatre piece, and each time I see it I find that I do get emotional. It revisits some of the very difficult feelings that families experience as they try to seek help for severe perinatal mental illness, and is very raw and powerful.

I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to staff who are often ‘first responders’ in times of crisis – paramedics, the police and crisis team staff. I felt treated as an equal in the room, even with very senior staff, and the facilitators made provision for anyone affected by the themes throughout the day to seek support. The impact of perinatal mental health problems on the developing child was handled sensitively, hopefully and realistically by a speaker from the Institute of Health Visiting, which is so important when you have parents in the room. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, the chance to promote the work of APP through recording a podcast, and the chance to meet other parents.”

And Sally attended the third and final session in Bristol on 30th June, she commented:
It was a real privilege to be invited to the ‘I’m fine’ event in Bristol in June 2017. The morning session was very powerful. We watched a very relevant and truthful theatre performance about a couple who had recently had a baby and the mother was suffering from postnatal mental illness. The performance was based on real events and conversations with other mothers and families who had been through similar experiences. This gave a particularly accurate account of the events, feelings and thoughts of a family going through this. It was so helpful for the health professionals to see this and to see what goes on ‘behind closed doors’ and provided a valuable forum for discussion about how to talk to a patient experiencing postnatal mental illness.

The afternoon was led by the ‘experts by experience’. There were 3 mothers who described their experience to the delegates, who then chose which mother they wanted to spend an hour with, listening to and asking questions. The conditions included post-natal depression, anxiety and psychosis. As well as telling my story, I was able to answer questions posed by GPs, midwives, health care assistants and those working in the mental health sector. The delegates fed-back to me on the day and told me that not only was this session powerful and moving, but it also gave them an opportunity to ask anything they wanted to about postpartum psychosis. This included questions about the initial symptoms, types of treatments, recovery, my feelings about what happened and my relationship with my daughter. The overall feeling from the day was that the health professionals will remember these personal stories, which will impact on patient care in the future. It was inspiring to see so many health professionals interested and committed to improving antenatal and postnatal mental health care and I am confident that by talking about my experience of postpartum psychosis I have had an impact on shaping the future of these services.

To find out more about our Experts by Experience talks, or, the APP Workforce one-day training please see here, or, get in touch for more information.

Welsh Government Report into Perinatal Mental Health in Wales

NationalAssemblyforWalesPMHOct2017APP welcomes the findings of the Welsh Government’s Children, Young People and Education Committee Inquiry into Perinatal Mental Healthcare in Wales. The report is released today and can be read in full here.

Dr Jess Heron, Director of APP, says:

“The situation for Welsh families who develop Postpartum Psychosis has been totally inadequate. Mums who become ill in Wales have had to make the decision between being separated from their baby for treatment in a General Adult Unit, where specialist knowledge and appropriate facilities are lacking, or being transferred to a specialist Mother & Baby Unit in England, miles away from their partners, families and support networks. The recommendations made here are a positive step forward for Wales, and give us real optimism for the future.”

APP particularly welcome the following recommendations:

· The Committee find that general adult psychiatric wards are not sufficiently specialist to care for mothers during the perinatal period, and the separation of mother & baby for psychiatric treatment should not be tolerated in a modern health care service. They recommend the establishment of a specialist Mother & Baby Unit (MBU) on the M4 corridor, and a second Welsh MBU in north east Wales, shared with NHS trusts over the border in England.

· The committee report that awareness of perinatal mental health remains poor among the public and health professionals. They recommend that the Welsh Government undertake a public awareness campaign to improve understanding of perinatal mental health conditions and their symptoms. They recommend that antenatal patient information and antenatal classes to include information about the spectrum of postnatal illness.

· The Committee find that frontline staff – including midwives and GPs – feel ill equipped to identify and treat maternal mental illness.

They recommend that the Welsh Government work to ensure that perinatal mental health becomes a core part of the training and continuous professional development of all healthcare professionals likely to come into contact with pre- and post- natal women.

· They find lack of psychological support across all Health Boards in Wales to support women with perinatal mental illness and recommend investment in psychological services and professional training.

· The role of the third sector in identifying gaps in service provision and filling them was clear. More needs to be done to provide funding for and awareness of third sector perinatal mental health organisations and peer support provision.

If you have experienced Postpartum Psychosis, live in Wales, and would like to help APP make a difference for families in Wales, please get in touch:

A visit to Buckingham Palace on World Mental Health Day!

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Congratulations to Emily Slater, Director of the Everyone’s Business Campaign, who received a very special invitation to attend Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 10th October, World Mental Health Day. 

The Reception, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, was ‘to acknowledge the contribution of those working in the mental health sector in the UK.’   APP are proud to host the  ‘Everyone’s Business’ campaign (funded by Comic Relief) on behalf of  the Maternal Mental Health Alliance. The Campaign calls for all women throughout the UK who experience perinatal mental health problems to receive the care they and their families need, wherever and whenever they need it.

Emily said:

“It was a huge honour to represent the MMHA; the personal journey from the terrifying experience of severe postnatal illness (8 years ago) to standing amongst the royals and celebs and amazing activists I met felt hugely poignant and emotive.

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Following a speech from William, Stephen Fry spoke and summed up – for me – the atmosphere and significance of the event (to paraphrase): ‘Whatever your politics, having a mental health event being held in this building [Buckingham Palace] is huge cause for celebration – for mental health to be being discussed and championed by the Royal Highnesses helps to bring mental health into the light.’

[You can watch a recording of Stephen Fry’s speech here via Heads Together]

The evening was like none other I have attended before in that every single person I met had had a lived experience of a mental health condition and had gone on to turn this experience into a spring board for positive change. Meeting person after person with inspiring stories, with the backdrop of the palace, and the wonderful example being set by the Heads Together campaign was something I will savour just as much as the opportunity to meet the Royal hosts.”

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The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of over 80 UK organisations committed to improving the mental health and well-being of women and their children in pregnancy and the first postnatal year. 



APP Workforce Training launches


Last month Jess, Ian and Anna ran the first of our exciting new APP Workforce Training days at St. Ann’s Hospital in North London. These days, commissioned by NHS Trusts from across the county, have been designed to equip medical professionals with an in depth understanding of all aspects of PP. This first group of twenty spanned a broad spectrum of professional roles within the Perinatal Mental Health Service for this area, including Midwives, Social Workers, Health Visitors, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and CPN’s.

Anna kicked off the day by telling her personal story, hearing this first hand experience of PP, took the professionals inside the mind of someone experiencing psychosis and provided them with the opportunity to ask lots of questions about the nature of the illness and the impact it can have on mother, baby, partners and families. Ian then gave a detailed insight in to the clinical features of PP, diagnosis, risk factors, causes, outcomes and public health importance. He shared latest research and answered an array of different questions about both PP and other SMI’s, giving the professionals a unique chance build their individual knowledge.


To ensure professionals went away armed with new ways of thinking about and dealing with the illness, we created three PP case studies for them to consider. These examples highlighted different aspects of the illness and opened up discussions on preconception planning, treatment, recovery, complex cases and the role of professionals.

Jess brought the day to a close by explaining the role of APP in furthering the understanding and awareness of PP and showed the impact the charity has had in the media and at government level with policy change. The attendees were particularly interested in the research that has been conducted, the ways in which the APP forum can provide an empathetic community for women recovering from the illness and said they would go back into the work place feeling more confident in dealing with the illness.

We were delighted with the impact of the day and this first group of twenty, left the day, resolved to do their bit to advance PP care in the perinatal period.

“I enjoyed the broad range of information provided, the way it was presented was excellent and informative. Hearing a real life experience and having a professor present to provide research was very helpful in giving us insight. Thank you all.”

“Today was excellent, it felt up to date, evidence-based and sharing the lived experience was very helpful. There was a nice mix of disciplines and experience in the room.”

To find our more about APP Workforce training as well as our Experts by Experience talks please see here, or, get in touch for more information.

Fiona & Henry raise awareness & a National Peer Support Award for APP!


‘APP attended the first Annual UK Maternal Mental Health Conference which was a sold-out event, with over 250 people converging on Imperial College, in London on 13th September 2017.  I was looking forward to seeing others involved in APP, including our Trustee & Vice Chair of MMHA, Clare Dolman, Regional Rep & Media volunteers Kathryn Grant, Fiona Putnam and Eve Canavan, and those from other organisations involved in Perinatal Mental Health.  It was a day full of passion, with so much expertise in the room, and a prestigious line-up of speakers from the UK and beyond. 

APP Regional Rep & Media Volunteer Fiona Putnam together with her husband Henry Everitt eloquently and powerfully retold their story of Postpartum Psychosis after the birth of their daughter.  Attendees were gripped, equally shocked and saddened to hear the extremes of Fiona’s illness, following a difficult and traumatic pregnancy and birth; this included jumping from a window and fracturing her spine during her illness, and being helped by a paramedic who she had thought was a “handsome actor on Casualty”.  The audience smiled and laughed along with her when she recounted the parts of her illness which she can look back on with humour, and the love and support she received from her family and friends.  The support she received from a Mother & Baby Unit, after what she described as a scary time on a general psychiatric ward, was vital in her recovery, as was the information and shared experiences she found through APP.


The MMHA Awards, supported by Big Lottery, followed the conference and APP was thrilled to be announced as the Winner of the Perinatal Peer Support Award.  With over 100 nominations, it was an honour for me to accept the award on behalf of the team at APP, all of our fantastic volunteers, and the women and families we support.  Representing APP is a privilege that I could never have imagined happening when I, like Fiona and so many others, was recovering from PP almost 8 years ago now.  I think I had the biggest grin whilst hearing about why we had been nominated from writer & Psychotherapist Susie Orbach, who presented the Awards – and have to admit to responding to others’ cheers with a heartfelt cheer of my own!  Thanks to Comic Relief, who fund our vital Peer Support service, we continue to offer support and vital shared experiences to women and families throughout the UK who experience this debilitating illness.  Peer Support is just amazing!’

Hannah Bissett – APP Peer Support Co-ordinator



 Maternal Mental Health Alliance - Winners of the first perinatal mental health awards 2017

A visit to Preston North End FC for Lancashire Care Trust Perinatal Mental Health event


n the 3rd August 2017 Lancashire Care Trust invited a range of stakeholders, including people with lived experience, to a discussion day to work through pathways, priorities and good practice to ensure their new eight-bed perinatal mental health inpatient unit for Cumbria & Lancashire, and the experience of care, as effective as possible for everyone. 

APP’s Peer Support Coordinator, Hannah, was delighted to attend alongside Dr Giles Berrisford (APP Chair) and recounts her visit to Preston North End Football Club…


‘It was a rainy, grey day as I drove over to Preston North End football club for the Lancashire Care Trust Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) event – hardly summer weather, but this is the UK after all, and being from Yorkshire, I have to say it was also due to being on the “wrong side” of the Pennines!  APP had been invited earlier this year to become involved in the development of one of four new Mother & Baby Units (MBUs), with Lancashire Care Foundation Trust being the provider for a new unit in Chorley. The event was held as a discussion day to work through pathways, priorities, challenges and good practice to make the unit and the experience of care as effective as possible for everyone, so I was really keen to hear more about it and see and hear from other key stakeholders.

I was also really pleased to be meeting two APP volunteers at the event, Jane and Gillian, who both experienced PP and are from the North-West. It was great to be able to link them with other professionals at the event as being some more local contacts for APP – we all left having given our details to be involved in the continued engagement work ahead of the new unit opening in 2018. There were others with lived experience there too and it was nice to be able to give some APP literature to people directly affected, as well as the professionals in the room. We consistently get really good feedback about our peer support and Insider Guides, so it meant a lot to know what a difference it can make. There were also representatives from other voluntary and community organisations and I hope we all did a good job in getting the APP message out. Feedback from the group work in the afternoon particularly mentioned Gillian’s input and how the things she talked about and the support that professionals can give had really impacted on them. Well done Gillian!


The morning was a very full session of speakers, introduced by the Trust’s Chief Executive, who had special dispensation to attend her Board meeting late – such is the priority for PMH and the interest and engagement from all involved. This was also reflected in the number of psychiatrists in attendance, both general and specialist perinatal, as I counted at least 6 from as far afield as the Midlands and Morpeth! Dr Giles Berrisford, Associate National Clinical Director with NHS England (NHSE) for Perinatal Mental Health, and APP’s Chair of Trustees, had been caught in traffic on the M6 so we swapped time-slots and I talked about my experience of PP and my involvement with APP, which seemed to be well received. The social media activity was also great to see, with some really touching comments.


Giles’ presentation about the National Perspective followed, and we also heard from Leeds and Manchester about their services and shared learning about both in-patient and community services, as the new MBU will also offer Outreach. Dr Gillian Strachan, Consultant Psychiatrist with Lancs Care and a current PMH Bursary Holder with NHSE, kept the morning moving to time and we also heard about the development so far of the MBU.  There was also an interesting presentation from the architects and designers about their vision for the Chorley MBU, and their engagement with other stakeholders including those with Lived Experience of PMH. The MBU & Outreach will cover Cumbria as well as Lancashire so it was especially valuable to hear about challenges such as travel and rurality, something I know from my experience living in rural North Yorkshire.

Lunch was an opportunity for further networking which everyone seemed to take advantage of; with the room overlooking the football pitch, there was also a few mentions of people feeling that they were being disloyal to their team by being there! The group work in the afternoon, focussing on questions which were approached by people working in different teams, also produced lively discussion and feedback. Before long we were all headed home to various teams, towns and homes in the North-West (and me back to Yorkshire!) with a renewed passion and determination to make sure that women and their families have access to the best PMH care, as locally to them as possible. Thank-you to all at Lancashire Care Trust for having APP as part of your event and we look forward to further involvement and the MBU opening in 2018!


APP discuss Perinatal Mental Health services at the Welsh Assembly

19800629_1547921858614816_2427648579280450680_oAPP were invited to the Welsh Assembly this week to give evidence to the Children, Young People & Education Committee about Perinatal Mental Healthcare in Wales.

APP’s Director, Dr Jess Heron and North Wales Regional Rep, Sally Wilson attended for APP and Charlotte Harding (who is also APP’s S Wales Rep) attended with Barbara Cunningham on behalf of PMH Cymru.

The aim of the inquiry is to consider how Perinatal Mental Health services are currently provided and how the Welsh Government can improve services for mothers, babies, fathers and families. The Committee wanted to find out how services link together, including specialised perinatal mental health services, maternity services, general adult mental health services, inpatient mother and baby units, parent and infant mental health services, health visiting, clinical psychology, and midwifery services, GPs and the extended primary care team, role of the third sector and local support groups, and private providers of services.

Jess and Sally explained the critical need for a Mother & Baby Unit in Wales. They gave evidence about the importance of high quality training in PP for all health and social care professionals that come into contact with pregnant and postnatal women. They explained to the committee the importance of peer support to women and families affected by PP, and outlined how this could be provided in Wales.

You can read APP’s Wales report here and watch via Senedd TV here (around 2 hours in).

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”!


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.


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.