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!Read full news item
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.Read full news item
In 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.Read full news item
APP’s Expert by Experience sessions continue to be sought after and our partnership with Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) saw 4 further sessions after the successful pilot in Hull earlier in the year.
During Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, the Institute announced the collaboration, which aims to ensure that the APP voice is central to their training:
“Women, who are experts by experience from APP, deliver on the iHV Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) programmes so all the health and social care professionals we train understand what they need to do to best support women and their families”.Read full news item
We are very grateful to all who staged an event, including Benedicte Waaler (top left), Tutbury Community Choir (bottom right), York Light Orchestra (top right), Ripon Community Orchestra (bottom left), Bradford Midwives, Fishergate Primary School and Burgess Hill School. You can find out more about the events on our Fundraising News page.
We are also very grateful to our team and volunteers who worked so hard to promote and support the initiative, shout out to Hannah, Ellie, Kat, Emma, Heather and many others.
Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, promoted by the PMH Partnership and featuring the hashtag #MaternalMHMatters, created a lot of interest on social media during the first week of May, closely followed by Mental Health Awareness Week after this. #MHAW2017 featured heavily on Twitter and it was great to see more conversations about mental health and PP.
Media activity in this time was also high, including a Radio 4 interview with Hannah B about her PP experience and a Daily Mail feature on Hannah F; go to our media page for the latest news, including International Day of the Midwife which also fell in early May and was supported by midwives in Bradford.
Peer Support & Regional Reps Co-ordinator Hannah also attended an IDM2017 event in Darlington, hosted by the Co Durham & Darlington Trust. Amongst speakers including Baroness Cumberlege, who mentioned the need for improved perinatal mental health care as part of the Better Births review, and national and regional figures from Royal College of Midwives and others, Hannah shared her experience of PP and the changes in the PMH landscape in recent years. She also managed to give APP Guides to the Baroness!Read full news item
The verdict from the inquest into the death of Alice Gibson-Watt makes for difficult reading and our thoughts and hearts are with the Gibson-Watt family at this dreadful time.
Postpartum Psychosis is a shocking and severe illness and much more must be done to prevent such tragedies. More research is needed to understand the causes; more must be done to inform and support families; more awareness, high quality training, more funding, more compassion and understanding is needed.
The BBC spoke to Anthony, the widower of Alice Gibson-Watt. He said "I had no idea about postpartum psychosis". Watch here.
We thank Alice’s friends, family, and workplaces for their support of APP in memory of Alice, raising funds to help us provide information, peer support, training, conduct research, campaign for better awareness, understanding, and specialist services for all who need it.
Our volunteers feel this loss terribly. Many know that this story could also have been theirs. We are passionately committed to working in all the areas needed to prevent tragedies occurring caused by this severe, distressing, but treatable postpartum mental illness, which affects around 1-2 in every 1000 families after childbirth. For most women and families, the outcome is positive and families recover, but the reality is that mental illness and suicide are still a leading cause of maternal death.
Our thoughts and hearts are with the Gibson-Watt family through this dreadful time.
Postpartum Psychosis is a shocking and severe illness and much more must be done to prevent such tragedies. More research is needed to understand the causes; more must be done to inform and support families; more awareness, high quality training and compassion is needed.
We thank Alice’s closest friend Katie, Alice’s family, Sotheby's and the Antiques Roadshow for their support of APP in memory of Alice, raising funds to help us provide information, peer support, conduct research, campaign for better awareness, understanding, and specialist services for all that need it.
We wish things for Alice’s daughter could be different. Our volunteers feel this loss terribly. Many know that this story could have been theirs. We are passionately committed to working in all the areas needed to prevent tragedies occurring caused by this severe, distressing, but treatable postpartum mental illness, which affects around 1-2 in every 1000 families after childbirth. For most women and families, the outcome is positive and families recover, but the reality is that mental illness and suicide are still a leading cause of maternal death.
If you would like to support APP, please donate to support Katie in her London Marathon attempt in memory of Alice - you can read her story here.
We are grateful that the BBC News report on Alice's inquest links to APPRead full news item
Hannah Bissett, Peer Support and Regional Reps Coordinator, tells us about a busy start to the year up north.
2017 so far has seen a real spike of APP involvement in the north, or so it feels! After a joint training session for an Early Intervention Team in Wallasey, Merseyside with Emma Odell in February, Emma has also been busy with 2 sessions with Manchester University. She has also made a link with the Greater Manchester & Eastern Cheshire Clinical Network, filming a patient experience video ahead of a conference in June. I have also travelled across to film for this and we are both really looking forward to seeing the final cut. The Network are really interested in linking further with APP in the future – watch this space…
This month I have also been to Hull, not once but twice. The first was on 10th March to contribute to the Institute of Health Visitors PMH Champions training, with Melita Walker. We are hoping that this will lead to further collaboration with iHV, to share further PP stories through Expert by Experience talks. The second visit to Hull was on 24th March, as part of a 2-day PMH conference held by the University of Hull & Humber NHS Foundation Trust. I had an APP stand and presented my experience of PP as part of the second day. Both were well received and further links made – perhaps even for a third trip to Hull in the not too distant future. Well, it is the European City of Culture 2017!!
My link with Leeds MBU led to a session as part of training for their team on 16th March, together with staff who will be working on a new community perinatal team in Bradford. As one of the areas recently successful in phase 1 of the NHS England community funding, Leeds are “buddying” Bradford in designing and training for their service. It was also good to talk to the staff there about the Yorkshire & Humber Outreach service, which launched a year ago in March 2016, and possible gaps in the Y&H area where we could do further joint work to reach other maternity and general mental health teams.
I have also been linking in with others around the country who are doing Regional Rep things for APP or are interested in getting involved, including Sally Wilson whose recent BBC Eye on Wales programme was such a powerful story, and well received.
Now I'm officially in post I am looking forward to catching up properly with all the other Regional Reps, to hear about how APP is raising awareness and working with services in their areas. If you are interested in being a Regional Rep for APP, drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking ahead, I will be returning to County Durham & Darlington’s International Day of the Midwife in early May, and dropping in on the way home to “Hope” at Edge Bar, Stockton, a series of events to coincide with the Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, run by a local PMH group www.raindropstorainbows.co.uk.
May also sees APP’s Music4Mums to coincide with World Maternal Mental Health Day on 3rd May. One of the events planned is with my local community orchestra in Ripon; I might even be persuaded to play, but need to get my cello in working order, as I’m very rusty these days! More here on how you can be involved: https://www.app-network.org/m4mumsRead full news item
Things are going well with our Peer Support project.
The Comic Relief grant started at the beginning of March which means that Ellie and Hannah are now employed 2 days a week to manage and develop the Peer Support Project.
Our online peer support forum continues to have many active members. We also co-hosted a PND Hour twitter chat on 1st March about postpartum psychosis, which went really well. It was amazing to have so many courageous women together talking so publicly about their experience of PP.
We have started planning our training for new Peer Support Volunteers which will take place in June. We have a list of people who are interested in being peer supporters. They include people who are already contributing a lot to our online forum, and also several people who have accessed our one to one peer support, so have lived experience of being supported themselves.
Ellie has begun developing a pilot face to face peer support group for women who have had PP who live in Sussex. Ellie is collaborating particularly with the Sussex Early Intervention in Psychosis team and Ellie and two women who have had Postpartum Psychosis have met two times already. The meetings are very informal. We also have more women who are interested in joining the group so it looks likely to grow. This is a really exciting development in our Peer Support Project and we hope to facilitate more face to face peer support in two other areas of the UK, yet to be decided.
Ellie, Hannah and Jess are busy developing the project plan as well as putting monitoring and evaluation in place for Comic Relief. We are also submitting another application to the Big Lottery, in an attempt to secure further funding for this vital work.Read full news item
APP's regional rep for London, Kathryn, recounts a very special day at the launch of Best Beginning's "Out of the Blue" film package.
"Wednesday's terrorist attack on Westminster horrified us all. But the work of mental health campaigners goes on: we will not be stopped by extremists. And neither, it turns out, will the Duchess of Cambridge.
As I watched events unfold on the news the night before I was sure that, after weeks of anticipation, the Best Beginnings event would be cancelled. Surely security concerns would keep the Royals safely inside Kensington Palace? But no. The show went on and as a community of perinatal mental health campaigners we focused our attention firmly on the future.
We had been invited to attend the launch of Best Beginning's "Out Of The Blue" film series. They had recently partnered with the Heads Together charity, set up by Princes William and Harry and the Duchess. It promised to be an auspicious event.
I had first gotten involved with the project over two years ago now. I had agreed to contribute to the films about severe postpartum mental illness, and Mother and Baby Units. With my son (who was only around two years old at the time), I spent several hours being interviewed on camera for the films, and captured revisiting the Unit where we spent the first three months of James' life. The subsequent editing and producing seemed to take months (if not years!) and so by the time my launch invite arrived I had almost forgotten about our contribution. In the intervening period I had suffered relapses of bipolar depression, recovered again, learned a lot about my own mental health, trained as a Mental Health First Aid instructor, and spent two long secondments with my family in the Cayman Islands.
The gathering at the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists beautiful Regents Park headquarters was full of perinatal mental health professionals, charity workers and families with lived experience. And I (and the many other contributors) felt like a minor celebrity, as everyone seemed to know who I was from having seen the films! It was great to meet many of the other participants and their families: we came from all walks of life, and all over the country. Our experiences covered the wide spectrum of perinatal mental illness: anxiety, PTSD, antenatal and postnatal depression, and of course postpartum psychosis.
Seven of us (along with two partners) had been asked to take part in a special support group setting. After the Duchess's speech in the Auditorium she joined us for half an hour to hear our stories and ask questions. Like any support group we were all there first and foremost as parents and that included the Duchess. We supported each other to tell our individual stories and by the time HRH arrived we were in full swing. Albeit joined by several TV cameras, photographers, journalists, and Personal Assistants!
I was asked to speak first. Having been warned to keep things brief I gave a short synopsis of what happened to me and James, to culminate in our admission to the Bethlem MBU. I managed to impress upon her the importance of such specialist, high quality, psychiatric care. And how I was one of the lucky ones in the postcode lottery: I had access to this specialist care and a local MBU bed. Asides from this intensive psychiatric care, the second part of my recovery, I explained, was about "owning" my illness and being able to talk about it with friends and family. I had the chance to tell the Duchess how pleased I was that she and her family had started the Heads Together campaign. With such powerful voices, they will do a lot to reduce mental illness stigma and get people talking about their own mental health.
With a final photo call and a hastily-arranged interview with a Daily Mail journalist the official day was over. Social media had set my phone alight: but it was all worth it to have given postpartum psychosis a royal audience, and to have helped make a package of films that will educate healthcare professionals and new families for years to come."