Simon completes 852 virtual miles raising awareness of support needed for partners during postpartum psychosis

We are absolutely thrilled that today, our brilliant partner peer support coordinator, Simon O’ Mara, completed his mammoth 852 mile journey raising awareness of postpartum psychosis, its impact on partners and the need for more Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) in the UK.

Marking the launch of a new support project for the partners of women who develop postpartum psychosis, Simon challenged himself to complete a virtual tour of all UK MBUs to highlight their importance in caring for the whole family unit at this critical time.

Simon, whose wife was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis 15 years ago, said: “As a partner, when all hell’s breaking loose and your wife and child have to go to an MBU, even though it’s the right thing, you feel like you’re losing them. But for some people, due to lack of services in their local areas, they have the added difficulty of travelling a really long way to see their loved ones.

“I initially planned to do the journey out on the road, but due to lockdown restrictions in the early stages of planning, I changed my plans to complete the cycle ride on my smart trainer.

“Doing a smart cycle ride of 852 miles felt like it might actually be a little easier – you don’t have to contend with the weather or road traffic. But it proved really hard at times, especially after a long day’s work when all you really want to do is relax and put your feet up with your family.

“Using the Zwift software and cycling virtually with others from all around the world was a real motivating factor though, as was meeting with some of the MBUs along the journey via Microfost Teams. It’s really kept me going and I’m delighted to have raised £800 for Action on Postpartum Psychosis.”

Simon added: “APP has been campaigning for more MBUs for many years now, and cycling the distances between these services felt like a really good way to show just how these gaps in provision can affect families.”

Dr Jess Heron, Chief Executive, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, said: “Families across the four UK nations are often faced with difficult decisions about receiving specialist MBU care many miles from home or being admitted to a general psychiatric ward. As women can expect hospital treatment to last 8 to 12 weeks, and full recovery to take many, many months, this distance can be an enormous pressure on new families. Families in Northern Ireland, North Wales and the North of Scotland do not yet have access an MBU in their region.

“While we know that experiencing a severe mental illness at this time can be devastating for women, our research shows that partners also describe the experience as the most traumatic of their lives. Many men describe long-term impacts on their own mental health. NHS England have made a commitment as part of the Long Term Plan to inform, signpost and support partners. We hope other regions of the UK will follow suit. MBUs play a vital role in supporting partners and entire family units at this time and have expertise that general psychiatric units do not have.

“We have been working with partners for a long time at APP to support them with information and signposting about postpartum psychosis and getting help, but we are delighted that we now have a dedicated peer support team who can provide email, telephone, forum and video call support for dads and partners. We work closely with all UK MBUs to ensure that all who need it have access to peer support when postpartum psychosis impacts their family.

”We are so grateful for Simon’s commitment to raising awareness of the support needs of partners and we’ve all been cheering him on from the ‘virtual’ sidelines! We are all incredibly proud of what he has achieved.”

APP delivers award-winning peer support services working in partnership with NHS Trusts around the UK, manages a thriving online national peer support forum and facilitates impactful research into postpartum psychosis.

To find out more about Simon’s story, or to add to his fundraising efforts, visit his JustGiving Page 

To support the petition for an MBU in North Wales click here

 

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Cradled: An interview with writer Nessah Muthy

Ellora Torchia as Maia in Cradled

Part of Channel 4’s ‘On the Edge’ drama anthology, Cradled is a powerful portrayal of postpartum psychosis.

The writer of Cradled, Nessah Muthy, is an established TV and theatre writer, working as part of the Coronation Street script team, as well as juggling multiple solo TV and short film projects. Nessah talked to us about why Cradled was such a personal journey.

Please note both the film and the interview contain references to suicide and intrusive thoughts about babies. Please take care when reading/viewing.

APP: Many in our network have praised Cradled for being such a moving and powerful portrayal of postpartum psychosis. How did it come about?

Nessah: It’s actually about 90% autobiographical. Although my experience was/is of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) rather than postpartum psychosis (PP), many of the incidents leading to my crisis, and the outcomes from it, were similar. With OCD, the voices sometimes, to me, feel psychotic - but they’re not actually psychotic as they aren’t coming from an external place.

As I got more and more poorly with my second child however, it grew increasingly difficult to tell where exactly the thoughts were coming from and, truly scary to admit they might be manifesting inside my own brain.

With my first child, I had awful thoughts thinking I might hurt my baby. It became so bad that I couldn’t bathe her and I didn’t want to change her nappy. I was petrified of being alone with her so I was always taking her to the library, to playgroups, to parties, like Maia does in the film, just to be around other people. It was exhausting.

APP: In our network, many mothers had no prior experience of mental illness. However, we also know that past experiences of psychosis or being diagnosed with bipolar can also trigger PP. Had you experienced mental health problems prior to giving birth?

Ellora Torchia (Maia)

Nessah: Yes. My OCD was something I had lived with since I was a young kid. (Although I had no idea it was OCD or indeed what OCD even was.) Growing up in the 90s and early noughties, with no internet and not as many people talking about mental health, I basically thought I was some kind of monster. There’s a history of mental ill health in my family, but I had no idea that intrusive thoughts were a thing. So I remember being so ashamed and not being able to tell anybody the true extent of the thoughts I was experiencing. I may have tried once or twice but the look of horror on people’s faces made me feel unable to speak out about it.

I spent a lot of my childhood in church and looking back now, praying became one of my compulsions. I would pray for my family to stay safe and believed that if I didn’t do the prayers (and other things like getting to the lights before someone else) something really bad would happen.

As I got older, I became scared of having children because I thought I might hurt them. Of course, I felt there was no way I could tell my husband this, I was deeply ashamed and fearful of what he might think of me.

Overtime I ignored the thoughts as much as I possibly could and managed to bury my fears so deeply that I was able to have a baby. During this pregnancy however I experienced hyperemesis gravidarum  - basically prolonged and severe nausea and ended up losing a stone in weight. Looking back, this probably contributed to my ultimate crisis and certainly increased my anxiety.

When we brought my first new born home I distinctly remember saying that she was too good for me. You love this precious thing to the ends of the earth but you’re also utterly terrified of them.

Following her birth, the thoughts weren’t as intense as I thought they might be, however, they were definitely there. I remember having moments when I was sliding down the door, as Maia does, feeling overwhelmed by it. There was never a major kind of crisis point, I just tried to push through and push through, but, amongst the joy, there was a lot of intense anxiety and worry. With my second child, however, the birth was very traumatic and that really triggered my OCD.

Ellora Torchia (Maia), Damien Molony (Lenny)

APP: Many women in our network experienced traumatic birth prior to the onset of PP as well. What was your experience?

It was the most horrific birth, I essentially had a very high 3rd degree tear and spent two hours in theatre almost immediately after delivery.

A few days later I was back home and trying to settle in with a major significant injury. Then, my baby projectile vomited blood all over the wall, it was like something from a horror movie. It turned out to be residue from the birth canal, but was one of the worst things I’ve ever witnessed.

As my family of three tried to adjust to becoming a family of four, life was tricky. Juggling a two year old, as well as a new born who would vomit her milk after every feed, (due to lactose intolerance) and, then, as she grew older bang her head repeatedly against her wooden cot, things started to reach breaking point. With sleep deprivation thrown into the mix, my world began to spin and the intrusive thoughts increased during these stressful times. I felt like a monster had grown inside my head, that the monster was me, the worst Mum in the world.

APP: How did intrusive thoughts affect you?

Ellora Torchia (Maia)

Nessah: As a writer I was weirdly writing/analysing my own narrative - and it wasn’t a good one! I was also starting to self-harm. I became very suicidal because I was so scared of hurting my kids that I just thought I’d be better off not being here.

My husband was scared of going to work but he had to go to work, because I was on mat leave and we needed to pay the bills.

This is what I tried to show in the film - the fear of being left alone but having no choice as a family to be by each other’s side round the clock.

I also wanted to show ‘the fear’ of becoming unwell and how, in some ways, knowing that you are getting sick is more petrifying than succumbing to the illness itself. When I did finally say, out loud: “I am unwell, I need help” there was actually a sense of relief and release…but then came the challenge of trying to convince my family that I was poorly… At times it felt like everybody wanted me to get better, but nobody wanted to accept that I was ill… I remember trying to explain that will alone, as in, willing me to get better won’t get me better, this is going to be a long journey and you (my family) need to accept this. This again was something I wanted to show in Cradled, often it is the people around the person who is unwell, trying to convince them that they need help, for me, it was the other way around.

One day the façade finally fell, it all got too much and at a health visitor appointment I fully broke down. The health visitor was supportive as was my GP, but in the end I said I just think I need to go to A&E. From here my local mental health crisis team took over, they came out every day, twice a day, and they were amazing. Knowing that someone else was coming was so reassuring. Family members and friends were also hugely supportive, they sat with me, effectively on suicide watch.

I was given citalopram (an antidepressant), which helped, but they took a while to kick in and I could literally feel my brain adjusting to the drug.

A few weeks later I started to have CBT - (which I’d had before) but I was more honest than ever about the content of my thoughts and it really was time to face the fear. I had to do immersive stuff on my own - like going in the bath with the children, or changing a certain number of nappies every day.

I still have intrusive thoughts but in a weird way, the crisis was also the best thing that ever happened to me, because now I don’t live consumed with the weight and monstrosity of those thoughts. I don’t feel as desperately lonely, as desperately fearful. I’ve been able to tell others and I’m also able to tell myself/recognise that’s an intrusive thought, it’s not who I am.

It probably won’t ever fully go away but, as my husband said, we used to live from one panic to another, but the therapy and the tablets just stabilise things and prevent me from reaching crisis point.

APP: What made you decide to focus on PP rather than OCD for Cradled?

 Nessah: There are elements of my experience that were almost psychotic, like the mirror stuff that I showed Maia experiencing in the film. There were mini hallucinations that I started to develop, and it’s difficult to unravel whether they were indeed hallucinations or just really strong intrusive thoughts. As a child, I spent time around adults experiencing psychosis so I had personal experience of it to draw upon as well.

More technically, when you render, or portray, intrusive thoughts for dramatic purposes people will likely think that it is a form of psychosis. So it just made sense to me to portray PP and because my experiences were so close.

Other similarities between mine and Maia’s experiences include vividly imagining my babies drowned in the bath. With writing, you have to find the core image of that, the core emotional beat which is, I am responsible for my baby’s death. For me it’s the most powerful beat in the film, but it’s also the hardest moment to watch because I am right back there in the heart of my intrusive thoughts. I was so lucky to work with Chloe Wicks, the director, and the actor Ellora Torchia, who were/are both absolutely phenomenal, but of all the scenes that’s the most breath-taking and painful for me.

APP: It was so lovely seeing the ending where Maia and her partner, Lenny, were clearly in a supportive environment with their baby and a health professional, playing with toys. It reminded us of a Mother and Baby Unit. How did you come up with this ending?

Nessah: Maia and Lenny were indeed in an MBU at the end of the film. I didn’t personally go to an MBU, but I did a fair bit of research around MBUs. Watching Louis Theroux’s documentary, Mothers on the Edge, made me question that, if it wasn’t for MBU’s, and if I had been admitted to a unit, who would have looked after my children? How would my husband have coped? I really wanted to show the family together and I wanted that scene to be gentle and warm and, ultimately, for there to be hope.

Damien Molony (Lenny)

APP: Finally, why was it so important for you to write Cradled?

Nessah: My personal story is ultimately a survival story and Cradled is too. I wanted to show that there is hope but also to create a strong and authentic portrayal of mental illness. Before I was diagnosed with OCD I didn’t know what it was and felt so ashamed, so raising awareness was so important to me. I remember going to mother and toddler groups and meeting other mums who were like: “oh, I take that drug too” or “I felt that too” just knowing you’re not alone in your experiences is so powerful. I hope Cradled will make people feel less alone and that even if you are experiencing what Maia is experiencing, you can get help, that you can get better.

You can find out more and watch Cradled here

If you have been affected by anything in this article or in the film, need any support, or want to meet others, visit our Peer Support page.

 

 

 

 

 

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APP ambassador Laura Dockrill edits special edition of Mum Poet Club zine

Front over image from the Mum Poet Club ZinePre-orders of issue 5 of the Mum Poet Club zine, guest edited by our brilliant and incredibly inspiring ambassador, Laura Dockrill, are now open!

The Mum Poet Club, which publishes a regular zine, is a supportive writing group for parents who write poetry.

"And How Is Mum" is Issue 5 of the Mum Poet Club zine and features beautiful illustrated poems on the theme of identity in motherhood. It will be published on 19 November 2021.

These poems will make you cry, bring you comfort and bring you hope.

Each poem has been personally selected by our ambassador, award-winning writer and author of “What Have I Done”, Laura Dockrill.

On editing the collection Laura said:

“Guest editing this has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Why? Because not only is the standard exceptional; the writing is extraordinary, the courage is breath-taking – there is humour, there is real-talk and there is love by the bucketload- but truly because it was so hard to read poetry with so many tears in my eyes. I very quickly found myself sobbing and snotting over my marmite on toast, reading lines down the phone to my sister.

“These poems are a safe space. Reading this is a safe space that could open a conversation, a conversation that could even go on to save someone’s life.”

The zine has been made in collaboration with APP and all profits made from this issue will be donated to us to support our ongoing work.

This zine is made with love by the Mum Poem Press and features a beautiful gold foiled cover by Mum Poem Press favourite Ellamae Statham.

Please click here to pre-order your copy

 Watch this short film from Laura Dockrill about "And How Is Mum".

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APP 2021 Survey

We are launching APPs biggest ever survey about the care women receive for postpartum psychosis. We’d like to reach at least 500 women who have experienced PP.

The survey will help us to understand how differences in the types of care women receive for postpartum psychosis impacts on their experiences and recovery outcomes. The findings will help with our campaigning over the next 10 years.

The survey coincides with APP’s 10 year anniversary. Since gaining charity status in 2011, we have caused a sea-change in awareness of PP, services, and support. This survey will also help us understand the way that care has changed in the ten years since our last survey.

The survey takes about 20-30 minutes to fill in and asks about your care for PP. If you have completed it by post in the past 2 weeks - or if you have been a member of APP for a long time and completed the survey 10 years ago - you do not need to complete it again.
You can find more information and take the survey here: https://bit.ly/APPSURVEY2021

If you haven’t had PP personally, you can still help us by sharing the link with anyone who has. You can read more information about our biggest ever survey here:  https://bit.ly/APPINFO

We’d like to say a huge thank you in advance for taking the time to complete this survey.

Click here to take the survey

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Spring bulb planting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year the Royal Horticultural Society joined forces with BBC’s The One Show to bring the ‘Garden of Hope’ to the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show (21st to 26th September 2021). The garden is now being donated to the Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) Rosewood (part of Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust). The beautiful blooms will help create a sanctuary and place of hope for the mothers and babies there. There are more details about the project in this article

To tie in with this lovely idea, APP volunteer Gemma Vinter (pictured above, left) has been sourcing donations of bulbs to give to the UK’s 22 MBUs to help brighten up their grounds.  

Gemma teamed up with staff at Stafford’s MBU to plant 240 spring bulbs, kindly donated by J.Parker’s Dutch Bulbs in the ward’s garden. She visited the Brockington Unit at St George’s Hospital in Stafford in September, and was joined by Laura Fox (pictured above, right) from the MBU as well as other members of the team. 

Gemma says she hopes that spending time outside with lots of lovely plants and flowers will encourage a little bit of “me time” to help patients’ recovery, alongside the invaluable help and treatment that MBUs provide.

Laura and some of her colleagues from Brockington MBU climbed Snowdon on 2nd October to raise money for APP.  You can find out more and still donate to their challenge here

APP would like to thank Gemma and all the staff at Brockington MBU for their hard work and support.

 

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Campaign for better care for postpartum psychosis this World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10th October 2021 and this year’s theme is ‘mental health in an unequal world.’

Each year about 140,000 mums around the world will experience postpartum psychosis. Their experience of care varies hugely. Within the UK inequality remains. In Northern Ireland, around 35 mums will experience postpartum psychosis each year, with no access to a Mother and Baby Unit. In Wales, 50 mums will develop postpartum psychosis: mums in the north have to travel to South Wales or over the border into England for care. Half of the mums in Scotland who need a Mother and Baby Unit bed still do not receive one. General psychiatric wards are inappropriate for newly-delivered mums, lacking appropriate facilities, access to specialist professionals and knowledge, and forcing separation from babies.

We are using World Mental Health Day to further raise awareness of postpartum psychosis and campaign for better care – including more Mother and Baby Units to help keep families together and to recover more quickly.

How you can help this World Mental Health Day:

Join APP's call for access to Mother and Baby Units for mums who experience postpartum psychosis wherever they live in the world. We’d love for as many people as possible to help us spread our message.

#KeepMumsAndBabiesTogether
You can help by sharing our social media posts on World Mental Health Day.

Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
See us on Instagram

Remember to tag @ActionOnPP and use the hashtags #KeepMumsAndBabiesTogether and #WorldMentalHealthDay

If you live in an area of the UK without access to a Mother and Baby Unit please get in touch by emailing app@app-network.org. We'd love to hear your story.

Other ways to support this World Mental Health Day:

Go The Extra Mile For @ActionOnPP
To raise much needed funds in support of our work, join our #MilesForMumsAndBabies fundraising challenge. This World Mental Health Day we are asking people to ‘Go The Extra Mile For @ActionOnPP’ and donate £2 to support our #MilesForMumsAndBabies 2021 campaign. Donate here: https://bit.ly/DonateToActionOnPP.

Sign the petition for a Mother and Baby Unit in Northern Ireland
Action on Postpartum Psychosis volunteer, Oorlagh Quinn, has set up a petition calling for a Mother and Baby Unit in Northern Ireland. More than 3,000 people have signed the petition so far but we need more signatures. Find out more about Oorlagh’s campaign for a Mother and Baby Unit in Northern Ireland and sign the petition.

Volunteer with us in Northern Ireland
If you have experienced postpartum psychosis and live in Northern Ireland we’d love you to become a volunteer with us as we try to build our peer support, campaigning and storytelling networks in the region - join the APP Network.

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Cyclist to travel 850 virtual miles raising awareness of support needed for partners during postpartum psychosis

APPs Partner Peer Support Coordinator, Simon O’Mara, is embarking on a mammoth 851 mile journey to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis, its impact on partners and the need for more Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) in the UK.

Simon came up with the idea of a virtual tour of the UK’s MBUs to highlight their importance in caring for women who develop postpartum psychosis and their families. He hopes to raise awareness among women, partners and families of where the UK’s MBUs are and, importantly, the need for units in areas of the UK currently without them.

Simon, whose wife was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis 15 years ago, said: “When my wife was diagnosed it was a frightening time – not least because we had no prior knowledge of postpartum psychosis. But in many ways I feel that we were incredibly lucky in that we were able to access care in an MBU less than a 40 minute drive away – in my work with APP, I realise that many other families aren’t so lucky.”

Postpartum psychosis is a debilitating postnatal mental illness that can occur out of the blue in the days following childbirth. 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 1,400 women and their families every year in the UK and is always considered a medical emergency. However, it is treatable and women go on to make a full recovery with the right support.

Simon added: “APP has been campaigning for more MBUs for many years now, and cycling the distances between these services felt like a really good way to show just how these gaps in provision can affect families.”

Simon had planned to follow the route on the road, however, due to the pandemic, he invested in a smart trainer so he could complete virtual cycle rides using his own bike and smart technology. He will now follow the route virtually using the smart trainer, linking in with the MBUs along the way for online chats with MBU staff about partner support, and talking to other partners who have been affected by PP.

Dr Jess Heron, Chief Executive, APP, said: “Families across the four UK nations are often faced with difficult decisions about receiving specialist MBU care many miles from home or being admitted to a general psychiatric ward. As women can expect hospital treatment to last 8 to 12 weeks, and full recovery to take many, many months, this distance can be an enormous pressure on new families. Families in Northern Ireland, North Wales and the North of Scotland do not yet have access to an MBU in their region.

“While we know that experiencing a severe mental illness at this time can be devastating for women, our research shows that partners also describe the experience as the most traumatic of their lives. Many men describe long-term impacts on their own mental health. NHS England has made a commitment as part of the Long Term Plan to inform, signpost and support partners. We hope other regions of the UK will follow suit. MBUs play a vital role in supporting partners and entire family units at this time and have expertise that general psychiatric units do not have.

“We have been working with partners for a long time at APP to support them with information and signposting about postpartum psychosis and getting help, but we are delighted that we now have a dedicated peer support team who can provide email, telephone, forum and video call support for dads and partners. We work closely with all UK MBUs to ensure that all who need it have access to peer support when postpartum psychosis impacts their family.

”We are so grateful for Simon’s commitment to raise awareness of the support needs of partners and we will be cheering him on from the ‘virtual’ sidelines!”

APP delivers award-winning peer support services working in partnership with NHS Trusts around the UK, manages an online national peer support forum and facilitates impactful research into postpartum psychosis.

To find out more about Simon’s story, and to sponsor his cycle ride, please visit his JustGiving Page

If you are a partner and use Swift, Simon would love some support and virtual chats as he completes his journey. You'll also be able to follow him on Strava.

You can see  daily updates below; 

Day 1: Simon completed 41 miles, which is the equivalent from West of Scotland MBU (Glasgow) to St. John’s, Livingtston.

Day 2: 45.2 miles ridden, total mileage over the weekend now at 85.2 miles. 

Day 3: Simon is working in the week, so cycling in the evening. 24 miles done this evening.

Day 4: Simon cycled 26 miles in the evening, is 96 miles into stage 2, with a total of 136 miles completed to date.

Day 5: 26.5 miles completed with a 1,098ft climb.

Day 6; Sees Simon finish stage 2, a total of 179 miles into the journey and Beadnell MBU.

Day 7: Simon has now completed a total of 209 miles, and has a virtual meet with Beadnell MBU in the morning.

Day 8: Simon had a great virtual meet with Beadnell MBU this morning, having reached Morpeth last night. They talked about the support they not only provide for the mums but also the partners and families. A small unit and noticeable the large mileage between MBUs around this area, some partners/families having long journeys to visit their wife and baby. That's stage 2 complete. Simon is now 179 miles into the journey and about to start stage 3 a 121 mile stretch.

Day 9: Simon cycled a short stint today, just to keep the legs turning -10 miles. Stage 3 and Simon has completed 85 miles; only 35 miles to go till the end of this stage.

Day 10: A 24 mile ride, sees Simon only 12 miles from the end of stage 3 and shortly getting to Parkside Lodge MBU. 

Day 11: Another short cycle of 12 miles, keeping an average speed of around 22mph and sees stage 3 complete. Meeting with Parkside Lodge MBU today.

Day 12: Another quick 16 miles sneaked in. Meeting with MBU at Ribblemere meet on Sunday. Received a message of support from the MBU Bristol

Day 13: 342 miles in to the journey, around 40% of the cycle done. Another 26 mile ride competed tonight and 1038ft climbed, leaves just 24 miles to the end of stage 4 and the meet up on Sunday afternoon.

Day 14: Stage 4 complete and an extra mile started on stage 5. Just about to go and have a small ride for today

Day 15: Another small 16 miles ridden, well into stage 5 and today should see Simon finish that stage. Simon met up with Karen and Andrew at Ribblemere MBU, it was really good to meet and hear the support they provide.

Day 16: Stage 5 complete and onto Stage 6. The next meeting is with Adele at Andersen ward, Wythenshawe MBU  on Tuesday, which represents the end of stage 5.

Day 17: Simon was able to get another 16 miles (climb of 912ft) done and get the total miles cycled up to 415m, just another 11 miles to go before he reaches half way. So he is on stage 6 heading towards the Beeches.

Day 18: Simon was able to get another 16 miles (climb of 912ft) done and get the total miles cycled up to 415m, just another 11 miles to go before he reach half way. He is on Stage 6 heading towards the Beeches.

Day 19: Simon completed a 23 mile ride, taking him over the half way mark and around 2 thirds of the way into Stage 6.

Day 20: Another meeting held and this time with the Andersen ward, Wythenshawe MBU

Day 21: Inbetween chattting to MBUs, and tired legs… Simon completed a 12 mile ride, which sees the end of stage 6 and the start of stage 7 towards Greenhaven.

Day 22: After a few days rest over half term, Simon got my legs back in to it with a quick 12 miles

Day 23: Another 12 miles completed this lunchtime; it sees stage 7 complete and onto stage 8, a longer stage of 60 miles . It’s great to see the status map filling up with green…

Day 24: Thursday night and Simon managed to sneak in a 45 minute ride, covering another 15 miles. This finally takes him over the 500 mile marker; total at 505m.

Day 25: A late lunch today and time in the saddle for 18 miles, 540 miles in total and over half way in stage 8. Simon  also met with Shelley from The Beeches this morning and had another great chat covering what APP offer on the partners side but also the grandparents cafés groups, Health Unlocked, the training side of APP, and the peer support.

Day 26: Simon is nearing the end of stage 8, with only 6 miles before he starts Stage 9. Simon also did an Instagram live with DadMatters whilst cycling!

Day 27:  Another 21 miles done today, which sees stage 8 complete and me Simon has got 15 miles into stage 9. It’s only 34 miles this one, so Simon is almost half way through already, heading towards the Barberry.

Day 28: Simon is now over two thirds of the way through, hitting a total mileage of 578. Another quick 15 miles last night sneaked in after work. Simon is pretty close to just 3 full stages to go, though the next one to Melbury Lodge is 133 miles! Onwards and upwards, looks like a 1000 ft climb is coming his way!

Day 29: A 910 ft climb and 19 miles, taking Simon to a total of 597 miles, the end of stage 9 and 15 miles into the larger stage 10. Simon also took part in an interview on BBC Radio Surrey -  tune in to 3.46 minutes  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p09zf6j6

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 30: Simon managed to put in a 12 mile ride in amongst everything else, a busy day but it still means he is a few more peddles forward and 27 miles into stage 10. It’s fairly flat on this section and only small inclines. There’s a couple of 500 foot climbs later on in this stage but that’s pretty standard climbs on a lot of his sessions anyway.

Day 31: Simon has been on the saddle for 31 days so far! Today's session although small, only 14 miles, was a tough one, as Simon was later than normal getting on the bike and decided he needed to try and do a faster average speed. That short stint takes the total miles to 623 and 41 miles into stage 10.

Day 32: Friday morning and Simon had a virtual meet with the MBU at Birmingham and was joined by Hannah Bissett APPs National Coordinator (NHS Contracts & Regional Projects), and Natalie Thompson APPs Peer Support Facilitator, Birmingham and Solihull. Another hectic weekend but Simon managed a 25 mile ride on Sunday, so has now been 32 days in the saddle. He is around half way through stage 10 (66 miles) and a total mileage so far of 648.

Day 33: This is the second longest stage but Simon now has 192 miles to go until the overall finish. He has ridden a total of 660 miles, with a small 12 mile ride Monday night, leaving him with 52 miles left to ride in stage 10.

Day 34: Simon completed a 21 mile cycle tonight, bringing the total up to 681 miles and for stage 10 only 34 miles to do, before a meet up with Melbury Lodge MBU.

Day 35: Simon got on his bike first thing before work this morning  and did 12 miles. He had a catch up with the Brockington MBU on Thursday. It was lovely to talk to the staff, hear about the MBU, and chat about APPs partner support project. Simon found a little more time later in the day, jumped back on the bike wanting to finish stage 10 and rode 23 miles, making a total of 35 miles on day 35. This now means he is 1 mile into the start of stage 11; only a 136 miles left until the finish.

Day 36: The end of the cycle is getting ever closer. Simon is now 20 miles into stage 11, which leaves him a total of 117 miles left to complete the challenge.

Day 37: Simon completed a 24 mile ride this morning. Stage 11 completed and onto stage 12 the LAST stage! With now only 93 miles to the finish; so far he has ridden 759 miles over 37 days.

Day 38: Simon completed a 29 mile ride today, climbing a total of 755 feet, which leaves him just 64 miles until the finish line.

Day 39: Simon managed a small 10 miles tonight, leaves just 54 miles left to do.

Status Map

 

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A day in the life of…a Peer Support Facilitator

Natalie Thompson has worked with APP since 2019 and is based in our Birmingham and Solihull peer support team. Having experienced PP twice herself in 2003 and 2007, and later being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010, Natalie helps support women and families affected by PP (or other illnesses featuring manic or psychotic symptoms). After treatment in an acute psychiatric ward and fantastic care at the Birmingham Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), Natalie knows how challenging it can be to settle back into everyday life.

Here, she shares a typical day in the life of her role with APP.

09:00

I always start the day with a cup of tea (never coffee!) to wake me up. Steaming hot brew at the ready, I’ll open up my laptop, check my emails to see if there’s anything urgent I need to respond to, and then I’ll make a plan for the day. I also have a paper diary to cross reference with to make sure I don’t miss anything – I haven’t quite managed to go entirely paperless yet!

09:30

Armed with another cup of tea, I’ll call the women on my caseload to check in and see how things are. In normal times, this might be a face to face chat but during the pandemic we have tried to stay in touch by phone or zoom meetings. I know from personal experience that chatting to someone who has been through what you have is such a big help and makes you feel less alone in your recovery (which also helps to speed up recovery). From these calls I’ll write up my notes to make sure I am able to reflect on any areas I need to follow up on.

11:00

To end the morning, I might refresh my skills by taking part in training and shared learning. Sometimes this will be provided by the brilliant team at APP, but, as a partner of the local NHS Trust, we are also able to access NHS training and development too. It’s always good to keep learning and hearing best practice and I feel lucky that this is something APP is so supportive of.

12:30

Time for a lunch break. One of the perks of working from home during the pandemic is that my husband always makes our lunch which gives me more time to simply switch off for a break. He usually prepares nice healthy meals – but always tends to over do it with the mayo! (Not that I’m complaining!)

13:30

After lunch, I might attend an MDT meeting (multi disciplinary team meeting – one of the by-products of working in health is the number of acronyms you become accustomed to!). This might be attended by clinicians, nursery nurses etc.... and some of the issues we might address could include women on the high risk pathway and admissions to the MBU. Next up – it’s finally time for my one and only cup of coffee of the day! If I have any more than one I'd be bouncing off the walls!

14:30

Next I’ll make sure I get moving and get some fresh air by doing a socially distanced walk with one of the women on my caseload who is recovering from PP. These ‘walk and talk’ peer support meetings have been great during lockdown – especially for women who feel anxious leaving the house alone and those who don’t have a great social network. Getting out is difficult for new mums as it is, but even more so when you’re recovering from severe mental illness – and we know that exercise and fresh air both contribute to wellness so it’s a win-win.

15:30

Next, I might prepare for the APP café group – a session where several women get together to share their experiences or just to socialise with others who have been through similar experiences. When restrictions allow, these are all done in a physical space, so I’ll check out the venue, make sure they have good facilities and space, etc. Then, I’ll email participants a little reminder or, where outdoor café groups take place, check on the dreaded weather!

16:30

Time to clock off. That’s the great thing about working for a charity that’s committed to mums and babies spending time together – they like to ensure your work doesn’t eat too much into your family time! So even when I work from home I’m pretty strict about clocking off at the end of my shift and joining my family for a relaxing evening.

To find out more about current APP peer support job vacancies, click here.

 

 

 

 

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Book review: The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright

Reviewed by Hannah Bissett

As a Mum who has experienced PP I was intrigued to read this book.  The author really evokes the area the book is set in, providing a landscape backdrop (and accurate weather, as a fellow northerner I know!) to the character’s story as it unfolds, intriguingly through a mixture of “Now” and “Then” chapters.  At first this slightly threw me in terms of what was going on in the story but it also intrigued me and as one reviewer also wrote, I too had devoured the book in the course of a weekend!  It is a gripping read – intertwining the present-day life of Leah and her recollection and reflections on past events, and her search for answers about her life and the people she brings into it in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

“A powerful story which will resonate for many”

The book reaches a climax with spine-tingling terror and reality, describing postpartum psychosis and the past events and present terror that culminates in a devastating final chapter.  An Author’s Note at the end of the book gives clear information about postpartum psychosis and also signposts to APP, emphasising the importance of getting help and treatment for this psychiatric emergency.  The book is not an easy read in places but it is a powerful story which will resonate for many and will stay with me too.

The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood is available from all good retailers. Check out the publisher’s link for more information and how to buy.

 

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Wales Mother and Baby Unit Pamper Packs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A huge thank you to APP Volunteer Gemma for organising pamper packs to be delivered to the new Uned Gobaith (‘Unit of Hope’) Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) in Wales by our South Wales Team, Ines Beare, Danielle Thomas and Barbara Cunningham.

The packs included make-up items from Boots UK and Soap & Glory to help mums feel special and leaflets about APP’s peer support for mothers 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 that MBUs provide.

Gemma has been a volunteer with APP since 2018, and her husband Stephen ran a Virtual Marathon for APP in May 2021.  She previously organised pamper packs to be delivered to all MBUs before Christmas in 2020. You can read an article about this here.

Gemma 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. In Christmas 2019 I returned to my own MBU in Stafford and was able to thank staff and provide a small number of pamper packs. 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.”

Danielle Thomas, APP’s Assistant South Wales Coordinator said ‘Ines, Barbara and I had the pleasure of dropping off some pamper packs for the mothers who are staying in the new Uned Gobaith. We are very grateful to be able to deliver these on behalf of APP and our Volunteer Gemma. They contained lots of self-care goodies to help lift the women's spirits and we have already received a message from one of the  mothers to say how lovely they were! Sending lots of love and good wishes to them, from us, and all at APP’.

Thank you Gemma, for all your hard work in organising the packs, and also to our South Wales Team Ines, Danielle and Barbara for delivering them to the Wales MBU.

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