Category Archives: News

APP urges HSC Northern Ireland to invest in ‘critical’ Mother and Baby Unit to save lives

Representatives from Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) are speaking at the Northern Ireland Maternal Mental Health Conference this week to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis and the need for specialist life-saving facilities.

Postpartum psychosis is always a medical emergency and yet, while many parts of the UK now have specialist Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) to treat women experiencing this severe mental illness, Northern Ireland, North Wales, Northern Scotland and the Republic of Ireland currently have no such facilities.

MBUs accommodate multidisciplinary teams of experts able to care for both the physical and emotional needs of new mothers. They have specialist knowledge of the issues surrounding medication management in pregnancy and the postnatal period. Presently, because women in Northern Ireland do not have access to an MBU, they would be admitted to a general psychiatric unit – resulting in separation from their baby during this critical time, with potential lifelong consequences for both mother and baby.

Dr Sally Wilson, National Research and Training Co-ordinator, APP, who is speaking at the conference on Thursday (6 May) said: “Postpartum Psychosis is a devastating mental illness that can occur completely out of the blue and it always requires emergency specialist care. However, if affected families are able to quickly access the right treatment, the prognosis is good and women recover. MBUs are a vital service for mothers experiencing severe forms of postnatal mental illness, and we believe that every woman experiencing postpartum psychosis should have access to this critical specialist support.”

Postpartum psychosis is a severe 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 erratic behaviour  - which can manifest within days of childbirth. With the right treatment, women can fully recover.

Dr Jess Heron, CEO, APP said: “We’ve been campaigning for more Mother and Baby Units for many years. We hear so often from women and families about how traumatising and inappropriate general unit admission was. Our research shows that women who receive care for postpartum psychosis within an MBU feel more satisfied with the care they receive, they feel safer, more confident in staff, more confident with their baby, and are able to recover more quickly. These are essential services, not nice-to-haves, and they play a critical role in keeping families together and saving lives.”

The Northern Ireland Maternal Mental Health Conference takes place on Thursday 6 May during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. It aims to bring together parents, health services and the third sector to ensure that nobody is left alone to struggle with postnatal mental illness.

Both Dr Sally Wilson, National Research and Training Co-ordinator, APP and Ellie Ware, National Peer Support Co-ordinator, APP have experienced PP personally and will be presenting on behalf of the charity. Delegates can expect to hear more on what postpartum psychosis is, why it’s always a medical emergency, what care pathways for PP should look like, and why MBUs are essential. They will also discuss the importance of peer support and the myriad ways APP can support women and families, including some of the organisation’s future plans in Northern Ireland.

To book your place, and to find out more, click here

For further information on postpartum psychosis, or to access peer support, visit www.app-network.org

APP volunteer, Oorlagh Quinn, launched a petition calling for an MBU in Northern Ireland. To find out more about Oorlagh’s campaign and to sign, click here

Raising awareness of postpartum psychosis this Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

This week (3 – 9 May) marks Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, a campaign organised by The Perinatal Mental Health Partnership to raise awareness of the fact that 1 in 10 women experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after birth.

At APP, we know that postpartum psychosis plays a key role within this and it can have a devastating impact on many women and their families. In fact, postpartum psychosis can affect 1-2 in every 1,000 new mothers in the UK each year, and a lack of awareness makes it harder for families to reach out for help and more challenging for health professional to spot the signs.

As such, we are going to be using the week to further raise awareness of this illness and campaign for better services – including more Mother and Baby Units to help keep families together and to recover more quickly.

 

How you can help

We’d love for as many people as possible to help us spread our message and signpost people to support and there are many ways you can do this:

  • Share our social media graphics. Hop on over to Twitter (@ActionOnPP) or Instagram (@actiononpp) and share our ‘What is Postpartum Psychosis’ content – not forgetting to tag us and use the relevant hashtags too (#postpartumpsychosis and #MaternalMentalHealthAwarenessWeek)


  • On your own social media, share why you think Mother and Baby Units are important, tagging @ActionOnPP

 

  • If you’ve experienced postpartum psychosis and would like to join our peer support or storyteller network, please sign up using this form.

 

 

 

For further information on postpartum psychosis please use this link

If you are in urgent need of help, please follow this link for useful information

 

Peer support service launches in Morpeth for mothers experiencing postpartum psychosis

A partnership between Cumbria Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) and national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) is creating an invaluable peer support service for women experiencing severe mental illness following the birth of their child.

The Beadnell Mother and Baby Unit in Morpeth, which is run by CNTW, has contracted APP to deliver this much-needed support. APP is currently recruiting for someone who has experienced postpartum psychosis to join the team as a part time Peer Support Worker.

The Mother and Baby Unit exists to support women experiencing severe mental illness in pregnancy and following birth, with specialist support available to treat conditions such as severe postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis. The Unit also provides specialist mother and baby classes, activities such as parent and child swimming and baby massage classes, and overnight facilities for partners – with the core aim of keeping families together to support a faster recovery and better quality of life.

Postpartum psychosis is a debilitating postnatal mental illness that can occur out of the blue. New mums with postpartum psychosis may develop high or low mood, or fluctuate between them, alongside delusions, hallucinations or severe confusion. Many of these mothers have had no previous mental health diagnosis prior to onset – although women with bipolar disorder are at higher risk. It affects around 1400 women and their families every year in the UK and is always a medical emergency. However, it is eminently treatable and most women go on to make a full recovery with the right support.

Allison Spiers, Ward Manager at the Beadnell Mother and Baby Unit, said: “We work very closely with APP to support mothers who are experiencing postpartum psychosis, and we are really pleased to be growing that relationship by welcoming a new Peer Supporter employed by APP into our team.  Not only will they offer vital one-on-one support to new mothers at a very distressing time in their lives, this Peer Supporter will also support group work with the women on our unit, and provide training to ensure our whole team continue to develop an in-depth understanding of postpartum psychosis. At CNTW we believe that service users and carers with lived experience of mental ill-health should be at the heart of everything we do, and employing Peer Support staff is an integral part of this.”

Dr Jess Heron, CEO, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, said: “We know that CNTW are already big believers in the value of peer support and lived experience engagement. The service that they provide to new mothers and families at the Mother and Baby Unit is outstanding, and, by combining this with the new peer support role women will receive a truly holistic and specialist treatment. Being able to support women and families at this critical stage, as they go through this frightening experience and begin to recover, is key to reducing the trauma, giving hope, and helping women and families feel less alone as they navigate the recovery process.

“This vital service will benefit women affected by postpartum psychosis and their families across the wider North East region. As a national charity we are campaigning to see more Mother and Baby Units like this one open up around the UK, to help save lives, promote recovery and to keep families together.”

Hannah Bissett, National Co-ordinator (NHS Contracts & Regional Projects), Action on Postpartum Psychosis, said: “As a woman who has personally experienced postpartum psychosis I know how isolating and afraid it can make you feel. Peer support is a vital piece of the recovery jigsaw and we now have over 2,800 lived experience users sharing their stories and receiving support from trained volunteers as part of our national peer support forum.

“Having somebody there for you who knows exactly what you’re going through and who can inspire hope will undoubtedly bring a sense of relief and reassurance to women in the region who may find themselves experiencing postpartum psychosis. We’re delighted to be partnering with CNTW on this project and I’m looking forward to starting to build our volunteer team and hearing from applicants with lived experience interested in the peer support role.”

APP already delivers successful and award-winning peer support services working in partnership with NHS Trusts around the UK, as well as managing a thriving online national peer support forum. The charity also provides peer support for partners of women who are experiencing or have experienced postpartum psychosis.

To find out more about the Peer Supporter role, click here

 

Only Mother and Baby Unit of its kind in Wales to open in Swansea Bay

A new unit has been set up to help women in Wales who experience serious mental health problems during pregnancy and following the birth of their child.

Uned Gobaith (‘Unit of Hope’) will be the only inpatient unit of its kind in Wales to offer multidisciplinary mental health care to women from 32 weeks of pregnancy until their baby is one year old.

Until now, mothers who needed serious mental health care have either been supported in the community, admitted to acute mental health wards without their babies, or have had to travel to one of the specialist mother and baby units in England.

At present, the closest unit for women living in the Swansea Bay UHB area is in Bristol.

Based at Tonna Hospital, near Neath, the new unit is designed to be a home away from home where mums will have access to specialist care for themselves and their babies.

It has six individual bedrooms for women and their little ones. Mums who are admitted will also have access to a shared living room and kitchen areas along with a playroom, quiet room and sensory room.

In addition, accommodation will be available for family members travelling from further away to visit their loved ones.

Supporting the mothers and their babies on site will be a multidisciplinary team that includes psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatrists, as well as social workers, health visitors and midwives.

Nursery nurses will be on hand around the clock too, to look after babies while mothers rest or receive treatment.

Uned Gobaith was commissioned by the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, and made possible thanks to Welsh Government funding and support from mental health specialists in community and inpatient care.

A patient and service user group also gave crucial feedback during the development process, and chose the unit’s name.

Dr Jess Heron, CEO, Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), added “APP’s staff and lived experience volunteers in Wales have been campaigning for this unit for several years, and we have worked closely with the MBU development group to ensure that the voices of women with Lived Experience have shaped all aspects of the design of the new unit. Today’s news is testament to the power of positive collaboration, shared experiences and person-centred approaches to care.”

Toni Evans, 34, from Port Talbot, experienced serious mental health problems during and after her second pregnancy. Now a member of the patient group, she believes a local unit like Uned Gobaith would have made a huge difference to her treatment and recovery.

“It just got worse and worse as the pregnancy went on,” Toni said.

“The depression just got unbearable. I remember ringing my husband on the way to work one day saying that I was going to drive into a wall because I just needed help. Obviously I didn’t, but I just wanted to get out of it.

“Once the baby was born, I started medication straight away, but within two weeks my mental health deteriorated even further.”

Toni was seen by a mental health crisis team and, with the support of her “amazing” midwife, she was admitted to an acute mental health ward.

This type of ward has no facilities for babies or small children so Toni spent three days away from Sarah while she was assessed.

While she was in hospital, a member of the Perinatal Response and Management Service (PRAMS) team (which works with women at risk of developing mental health problems during pregnancy and after birth) told Toni a space was available at a specialist mother and baby mental health unit in Derby.

“At this point I couldn’t really think, I couldn’t answer questions so my husband had to say yes for me,” Toni said.

Toni and Sarah made the daunting 180-mile journey with two chaperones and a driver she had not met before. Arriving at 8pm, she struggled to get her bearings properly in a completely unfamiliar place.

“When we finally got to the unit, I didn’t want the chaperones to leave – they were part of home, they were Welsh, they were from where I’m from,” Toni said.

“I was being left in England, in a different country to where my family was.”

While Toni did make good progress in the seven weeks she was at the unit, the distance between her and Sarah in Derby, and her husband and son at home in South Wales was very hard for them all.

“My husband would come and visit but it had to be every other weekend because he had to take time off work and take my son out of school,” Toni said.

“And it cost a lot of money, driving up there and staying in a hotel.”

If there had been a unit closer to home, Toni believes it would have made a real difference to her family, her recovery and her transition back to home life.

“The people that I was in the unit with were local so they would have visitors a few times a week. I really was on my own up there,” she added.

The distance also meant that Toni went through a different going home process. While other patients would get to go back to their families for a few hours at a time before building up to overnight stays or weekends, Toni travelled to Port Talbot for week-long stays.

She had the support of local mental health specialists but it was hard for her to drop back into home life again.

“That was a difficult transition to go from being in the unit where you are so incubated and then back into the big wide world for a week with the baby and your family and everyday life,” Toni said.

“Some mums would go home for a little bit and it would be too much but they could go back to the unit.

“I didn’t have that choice. I had to travel four hours home and then if I didn’t like it, I’d have to go four hours back.

“It was just more pressure. I didn’t want to make my husband do that trip unnecessarily when he was doing it on weekends. It felt like I should suck it up and get on with it at home.

“It made a big difference to my recovery.”

After seven weeks of support and mental health treatment at the unit in Derby, Toni and Sarah made the journey home for a final time.

That was not the end of Toni’s mental health journey, however. When Sarah was six months old, Toni had a manic episode and went back into hospital for four weeks.

But this time there were no beds available in any mother and baby unit, so Toni was taken to a mixed acute mental health ward - without Sarah.

Toni has since been diagnosed as bipolar and is taking positive steps forward in her mental health journey.

But she feels that if she had been able to go to a unit closer to home, her experience of inpatient treatment would have been “completely different” – and is vital for other mothers’ recovery.

“I think it would have been a lot smoother and I wouldn’t have felt so isolated there. I was missing my son – at the time he was four years old – and my husband.

“I felt like I had taken the baby away from them because they weren’t able to visit,” Toni said.

“A unit here is just going to make an unbelievable difference for mothers in Wales. It definitely would have made a difference to me.”

Uned Gobaith is due to open in mid-April and will be accepting mothers and babies for treatment immediately.

Janet Williams, Associate Service Director of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at Swansea Bay University Health Board, has been part of the team leading the unit’s development.

Janet said, “When Uned Gobaith opens, we will be able to help women like Toni who are experiencing serious mental health problems, and their babies, in a safe environment much closer to home.

“This important service will significantly enhance perinatal care services across Wales and we are very proud to be hosting it in Swansea Bay University Health Board.

“It will be the only mother and baby unit of its kind in Wales, and its development has only been possible with support from a wide range of experts, teams and patients across the country.”

Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Eluned Morgan, said: “It is fantastic news that we have our own perinatal mother and baby unit in Wales to support those struggling with their mental health.

“This will make a significant difference to the experience of new mothers as they will be able to get the specialist support that they and their babies need closer to home.

“We all know that the pandemic restrictions have added to the challenges during this last year and so I welcome the addition of this facility which will complement our strengthened perinatal community offer.”

Sharon Fernandez, National Clinical Lead for Perinatal Mental Health, said: “The opening of Uned Gobaith is a huge step forward for the treatment of pregnant women and new mothers experiencing severe mental distress.

“Providing this kind of specialised mental and emotional support for women at one of the most vulnerable times in their life is essential, and the family-friendly environment Uned Gobaith offers means that partners and older children can be involved and get the support they need too.

“As a network, we were very pleased to play a role in the development of Uned Gobaith.

“Its opening is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of everyone involved, especially the many women who shared their own personal experiences of perinatal mental health difficulties in order to improve services for others.”

 

Out today: Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness

Catherine Cho’s powerful memoir is released today, 18 March, in paperback from Bloomsbury Publishing.

‘A haunting, eloquent evocation of becoming a stranger to yourself.’ Observer

When Catherine left London for the US with her husband James, to introduce her family to their newborn son, she could not have envisaged how that trip would end. Catherine would find herself in an involuntary psych ward, separated from her husband and child, unable to understand who she was, and how she had got there.

In an attempt to hold on to her sense of self, Catherine had to reconstruct her life, from her early childhood, to a harrowing previous relationship, and her eventual marriage to James.

The result is a powerful exploration of psychosis and motherhood, at once intensely personal, yet holding within it a universal experience – of how we love, live and understand ourselves in relation to each other.

Catherine Cho gave birth to her son in 2017. Six months later, she would find herself in an involuntary psych ward, separated from her husband and child. Catherine was diagnosed with a rare form of postpartum psychosis that affects 1–2 in 1000 women.

Anyone wishing to buy a copy of the book can order directly from the publisher or from all good bookstores. 

Catherine recently wrote a moving piece for the i Paper about her experiences. Read the full article here.

New and expectant mums face increased mental health risks caused by the pandemic

A new report from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and Centre for Mental Health calls for Ministers to fill the pre-Covid gaps in specialist perinatal mental health services

During and after pregnancy, women have faced greater likelihood of poor mental health during the pandemic, including anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts, according to a new report commissioned by a coalition of leading maternal mental health organisations. 

Women of colour and women from poorer economic backgrounds are more likely to experience mental health problems during and after pregnancy, according to the research. 

The rapid review of evidence commissioned by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), and conducted by Centre for Mental Health, for the first time compiles all available evidence into one place. This shows that access to crucial services reduced for pregnant women, new mums and babies across the UK, especially during the early stages of the pandemic. While health and care staff worked hard to deliver safe care, significant gaps emerged. Women also experienced a reduction in informal support from friends, relatives and networks of other women sharing their experiences.

Extra pressures include anxiety about giving birth during lockdown without partners present, fears of losing jobs, heightened levels of domestic violence, bereavement, worries about catching Covid-19, and concern about new infants catching the disease. 

The MMHA, a network of over 100 national organisations, together with lived experience champions and clinicians, is calling on Ministers to fill the pre-Covid gaps in specialist perinatal mental health. In addition, the wider system surrounding these services, including health visiting and maternity, needs to be protected and enhanced. Furthermore, up-to-date monitoring and research of maternal mental healthcare should be commissioned. It also says that without sustained funding, many Voluntary and Community Services will not survive, despite the increased demand from women for their services. 

Luciana Berger, chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) said:

‘Today’s report should serve as an ear-splitting warning siren about the dangers to women’s maternal mental health and potential risks to the wellbeing of their babies. The pandemic has placed additional challenges on new and expectant mums getting the care and support they need, taking many already-stretched services to the point of breaking. Women of colour and women from disadvantaged backgrounds have been particularly impacted, and Ministers must address this injustice with urgency.’ 

Sarah Hughes, chief executive of Centre for Mental Health, which carried out the research, said:

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has been a mental health challenge across society, but it has not affected everyone equally. It has placed especial pressure on women during pregnancy and after they’ve given birth. And it has made inequalities that were always there in plain sight even more pronounced. We need to take this opportunity to review and reframe what support women should expect for their mental health during the perinatal period, and to make sure that we prepare for any future crisis to avoid another loss of support at a crucial time in people’s lives.’

Aleema Shivji, Comic Relief Executive Director for Impact and Investment said:

‘The pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on the nation’s mental health and it is sadly no surprise that, as this report proves, pregnant women and new mums who face enormous challenges, have sadly been worst affected.  It’s clear that more work is needed urgently to help tackle the shame and stigma attached to maternal mental health for mums to feel recognised, supported and able to ask for help. At Comic Relief we have prioritised funding mental health services for over 25 years, but it is clear this is still needed now more than ever.’

Dr Jess Heron, CEO, Action on Postpartum Psychosis said:

‘At APP we welcome this report that clearly evidences the needs, gaps and inequalities in maternal mental health and calls for immediate action. Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency in all cases - and one that needs specialised treatment and support.

‘For many mothers during this pandemic, isolation and fear has been magnified - women have battled illness and recovery without the support of wider families and communities. Essential frontline professionals have been redeployed, and services and health professionals stretched to breaking point. As a charity, we’ve heard examples of staff and services going the extra mile to overcome huge challenges presented by the pandemic but, for some, experiences of birth have been needlessly traumatic. Some women at high risk of PP have had to give birth without their partner present, despite knowing of their high risk of developing this rapid and severe onset of mental illness.’

Today’s report Maternal mental health during a pandemic was commissioned by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and conducted by Centre for Mental Health, and covers all four parts of the UK.

Anybody in need of support or information regarding postpartum psychosis can find a wealth of information here.

Q and A with Hollyoaks’ Jessamy Stoddart

We chatted to Jessamy Stoddart who plays Liberty in Hollyoaks to reflect on what she’s learnt about postpartum psychosis (PP), and how APP helped Jessamy create an authentic and powerful performance of a woman experiencing PP.

First of all, for any readers who haven’t seen Hollyoaks, can you tell us a bit about Liberty’s storyline?

So... Liberty was carrying a baby for her sister. The birth was sudden and traumatic, and she lost a lot of blood. After this, during her physical recovery she started hallucinating and confiding in a nurse that wasn’t actually there. From this point on, it was clear she was suffering from postpartum psychosis, however it went unnoticed for quite some time. She has now received help and is very much on the mend.

When the Hollyoaks team first discussed PP with you, what, if anything, did you know about the illness and how did you feel about the storyline?

Being completely truthful, I had never come across postpartum psychosis before. Like many, I knew of people who had experienced postnatal depression, but psychosis was completely new to me. When researching I was shocked at the effects PP had on the mothers and those around them. I was honoured to tackle such an important storyline.

You took part in a Zoom session with staff and women with experience of PP. How did this support you in developing your portrayal?

This Zoom call was invaluable to my process. Hearing stories first hand, as well as talking to partners and health care professionals gave me such great insight. It also gave me a comfort blanket, knowing if I had any questions I could always speak to someone from the charity.

 

 

 

 


Did you learn anything new from speaking directly with women who have experienced PP? How did it add to the research that you did for the role?

Absolutely. It was so great to speak to incredible women who have come out the other side, who could really give me insight into what was going through their mind at the time. I had watched many documentaries but this really added to the research from a recovery perspective. It was amazing to speak to healthcare professionals too, to see what they would consider were the physical attributes of those who are suffering - I put a lot of this physicality into my character. I also found speaking to the partners of those going through PP so very interesting. They are smack bang in the middle of the symptoms often before it’s been diagnosed. So it’s a very traumatic experience for them – something that I’d never really considered.

Why do you think it’s important for soaps to tackle storylines like this?

Knowledge is power. If tackling this storyline helps even one person to recognise the symptoms early on, then we’ve done our job!

Finally, what’s next for Liberty?

Recovery and getting her ‘sparkle’ back! I’d also love to finish by saying a huge thank you to everyone at APP. The work you do is truly incredible!

Anybody who would like to become part of the APP network can sign up here.

You can also keep up to date with what we’re doing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Why we need more maternal mental health awareness for Black and Asian women

This Time to Talk Day (4 Feb 2021), we’re calling for more targeted awareness campaigns to support Black and Asian women in response to inequalities in maternal mental health.

According to a report from MBRRACE, mental health conditions remain the leading cause of pregnancy-associated deaths between six weeks and one year after giving birth (30%), and maternal suicide is the leading cause of death over the first year after pregnancy. However, there is a striking gap between the mortality rates for Black and Asian women, with Black women four times more likely to die in pregnancy than white women, and Asian women twice as likely.

Postpartum psychosis (PP), a severe and debilitating mental health problem that affects 1400 women in the UK each year from all backgrounds, plays a key role in this shocking statistic.

Our CEO, Dr Jess Heron, said: “We are saddened that the national mental health campaign, Time to Change, is having to close its doors this year, so we feel that, as a charity, we must continue to tackle stigma, and encourage conversation about severe postnatal illness. Our research with women from Black and Asian backgrounds who have experienced postpartum psychosis shows more needs to be done to reach communities with information, to tackle stigma and self-stigma. Women describe barriers to accessing services. Health professionals and charities need to reach out to different communities in response to their unique challenges. With Black and Asian women significantly more affected by pregnancy mortality, perinatal mental health charities must have tailored services and campaigns.”

As such, at APP we have decided to use this year’s Time to Talk Day to share the stories of volunteers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities who have experienced PP.

Plus, Shaheda Akhtar, one of our Peer Support Facilitators is offering talks and presentations to community groups and health professionals and is keen to encourage more women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to access information about PP. She says: “I want to start the conversation about PP and work with organisations who are already doing lots of great work in their communities – either in terms of mental health more broadly or dedicated women’s groups.

“We have volunteers trained in peer support and they are keen to support women using their own personal experiences from the perspective of a Black or Asian woman. Cultural identity and faith identity are important, and many of the women I have spoken to have expressed how both played a significant part in their PP experiences.”

Shaheda is also looking to contact more health professionals who work in maternity services or perinatal mental health from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to get involved in awareness raising campaigns. Shaheda added: “A psychiatrist or nurse who understands a community’s culture or faith will have a powerful impact in delivering our messages about what PP is and how women and their families can get help.”

Catherine Cho, author of Inferno, shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer Award, which recounts her experience of postpartum psychosis says: Maternal mental health, particularly in Black and Asian communities, has an added layer of cultural pressure and shame. It's often viewed as something that should be kept quiet and hidden away. I hope that by opening up the conversation around perinatal mental health, we can show that these experiences do not have to be feared or kept in the dark." 

To read Catherine’s story, you can buy her book, Inferno, from all good bookstores and online with Waterstones.

Anyone representing a faith or community group who would like to arrange for a talk from APP, or any maternity/perinatal mental health professionals who would like to get involved, should email Shaheda at shaheda@app-network.org or message her on Twitter @Shaheda_APP

Mother and Baby Unit Pamper Packs

A huge thank you to APP Volunteer Gemma for organising pamper packs to be delivered at Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) at Christmas.

The packs included make-up items from Boots UK and Soap & Glory to help mums feel special, books from Book Trust for story time with babies and leaflets about APP’s peer support for mums and families. Gemma organised the packs as a way of giving mums a little bit of “me time” to help their recovery, alongside the invaluable help and treatment the MBUs provide.  She also hoped that the Nursery Nurses and other staff would find the books useful in encouraging mother and baby bonding.

Gemma has been a volunteer with APP since 2018, and has also held a fundraiser for APP. She says “I suffered with postpartum psychosis in 2017.  Through this I gained an understanding of severe anxiety and depression and wanted to train as a peer supporter in 2018 in order to support others through their recovery journey. I also support the Birmingham project through attending the cafe group and really enjoy making a positive impact on others’ recovery. Last Christmas I returned to my own MBU in Stafford and was able to thank staff and provide a small amount of pamper packs. This year I wanted to reach every MBU in the UK over Christmas, as this period can be so difficult. I feel this is such an important step for mums not only to promote relaxation and self-care, but more importantly to raise awareness of APP, the support available and the ways in which they can get in touch.”

We have received some lovely feedback from MBUs across the UK. Staff at the Rosewood MBU in Kent said “Thank you so much for the donations we have received today, the self-care packages and books are lovely, and I know something that will really support the mums’ recovery, especially while we have a few isolating. It could not have come at a better time. Also thank you for the leaflets which are really helpful to give to families and provide them with insight and knowledge that their loved ones will get better.”

Staff at the Thumbswood MBU in Hertfordshire said “Thank you very much for your support and showing the generosity towards our MBU. We have distributed the pamper packs to our mums and they were very thankful. I think it was a fabulous idea during this difficult time.”

Staff at the Livingston MBU, Scotland said “Our team was blown away with your generosity and hard work. We were all wondering what the delivery was and initially thought it was toner cartridges we were waiting on. As you can imagine we all got so excited and felt overwhelmed with the kindness you showed and gave to our mums.”

Thank you Gemma, for all your hard work in organising and delivering the packs to the MBUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.