Alice Stroud, one of APP’s volunteers, is taking part in five triathlons over the next twelve months working towards the Olympic triathlon distance, to raise awareness and money to support APP’s work. Alice has never done a triathlon before, and the first event she is taking part in is on 25th and 26th September 2021 at Hever Castle.
Triathlon is an endurance sport that combines swimming, road cycling and distance running, performed in that order. Events are conducted over a variety of distances but the 'Olympic distance' for men and women is a 1,500-metre swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run. The race is completed with no breaks from start to finish.
Alice experienced psychosis twice during pregnancy in 2019 and into 2020, and said; ‘"APP offered peer and group support along with information to me and my family, which helped me stay focused and feel supported. The first face to face group (Covid-19 delayed) was such an important environment to discuss mine and my family’s journey.
Raising money can help others have the opportunity and support to enable their recovery and I will therefore swim, cycle and run as far as I can get to the Olympic distance triathlon goal in the next 12 months."
Below is a video of Alice at her first triathlon;
You can visit and donate to Alice’s fundraising page here.
If you have been inspired by Alice, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have. Get in touch here
A huge thank you to Amy Shaw who ran the Great North Run on Sunday 12th September 2021 to raise awareness and money to support APP’s work. Amy’s sister-in-law Katherine experienced PP in 2020 and was hospitalised for four months during lockdown. Katherine, her husband, Amy and some other friends are planning a number of different runs, of which Amy's challenge on 12th was the first.
Katherine said: “This time last year in the height of lockdown I lay in a hospital bed in Brockington Mother and Baby Unit thinking my life would never return to normal, and I would never feel like myself again. One year on and I proved myself wrong. I spent a time being cross that no one talks about things that could happen postpartum, I was so scared. I did not understand my illness and felt very alone in what I was experiencing.
APP’s Insider Guides and leaflets really helped me to understand what had happened to me, and reading other women’s stories was a great comfort, helping me to realise I was not alone. When I was lost and scared Amy sat at my feet, held my hand and told me I would find me again.”
You can read more about Katherine’s story here.
After the run Amy said: “It was a really good day and I was pleased with my time of 2.17 hrs which is a Great North Run and half marathon personal best for me.”
Amy’s fundraiser has raised more than £1,770. We would like to thank Amy and Katherine for supporting APP, and everyone who has donated.
You can still visit and donate to her fundraising page here.
If you have been inspired by Amy, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have. Get in touch here.
A huge thank you to our three amazing runners who took part in this year’s London Landmarks Half Marathon (LLHM) on Sunday 1st August to raise awareness and money to support APP’s work; Andy Rolfe, Kirsty Curtis, and Emma Polhill.
The LLHM takes in some of the capital's world-famous landmarks on closed roads in central London and is the only half marathon to go through both the City of London and City of Westminster. The race started by The Strand, and finished by Downing Street and included views of London’s most iconic landmarks including Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, Nelson’s Column, the Gherkin, the Shard, the Tower of London and the London Eye. With 11,000 runners the atmosphere and support on the route was joyful. Not to mention the incredible fancy dress: from the Spice Girls, Bagpuss, a wind turbine(!), penguins and much more…
Andy says: "I ran this half marathon to raise awareness and funds for APP, who have supported my family ever since my partner Emily was admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) for psychiatric care in 2017.
Thanks to the wonderful NHS staff and APP support she has made a full recovery, and our family is healthy and happy. Since recovering, Emily has started volunteering for APP, sharing our experiences with new MBU staff and other medical professions. APP has developed an online community for those affected by this illness and is working hard to provide support whenever and wherever they can.
This is the work I want to help continue, so that other families receive even better support than we did, and to minimise the impact of the illness on people’s lives."
After the event Andy said: ‘I'm really happy with the fundraising effort and all the people who backed me/contributed to APP. I had a pretty good run for most of the race, although it dropped off in the last few miles, so I ran in 1 hour 45 minutes in the end. Next stop is the full marathon in London in October which I am also running for APP’.”
You can still visit and donate to Andy’s JustGiving page here.
Kirsty says: "When my daughter was just five days old I became very unwell with postpartum psychosis (PP). After a few months of feeling ok, or so I thought, I stopped the medication and had a relapse. This time the amazing perinatal team felt something else needed to be done so I was admitted to a MBU in Bournemouth to recover. As hard as it was being away from my husband and son, I received amazing care for about four weeks.
During my recovery I found the amazing APP, which allowed me to meet others who have also been through PP, making me feel less isolated and alone. If it wasn’t for APP and the women I met through them, my recovery journey could have been a lot longer and harder.”
After the event Kirsty : “The race was really good, and the atmosphere was great. My time was 2 hrs 23 mins, roughly what I was aiming for so I was happy with the result. It was so lovely to meet Emma after the race and hopefully we will keep in contact with each other too.”
You can still visit and donate to Kirsty’s JustGiving page here.
Emma says: "After having my second son I was extremely ill with PP. I had never heard of PP before and only really understood what it was after a few months of being in an MBU where I had been sectioned for my own safety.
The recovery from PP is very long. One and a half years on, I feel like the old Emma is back. It’s been a long 18 months but I have had the most amazing support around me. The MBU, the Community NHS Teams and the Adult Mental Health Services have been amazing. I ran this half marathon for other women with the illness who are in need, I hope the donations can help other mums."
After the event Emma said ‘The atmosphere was great and it was so nice to take part and meet Kirsty too.’
You can still visit and donate to Emma’s JustGiving page here.
Our three runners have raised more than £2,600 for APP. We would like to thank Andy, Kirsty and Emma for supporting APP and everyone who has donated.
If you have been inspired by our runners, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have. Get in touch here.
A huge thank you to Kimberley Mace and her best friend who took part in a skydive on Saturday 11th September 2021 to raise awareness and money to support APP’s work.
Kimberley experienced postpartum psychosis (PP) in November 2015 after the birth of her son, and was initially treated on a general psychiatric ward at Ipswich hospital before being admitted to her local hospital at Wedgewood.
Kimberley said: “APP helps mothers and families who have experienced this severe illness and this wonderful charity helped me to understand what exactly I was diagnosed with. Whilst there’s more talk about PP now, it wasn’t an illness known to me when I was diagnosed in 2015.
I have since gone on to have my daughter with no recurrence of PP. APP’s forum helped me get through this by answering any questions I had.”
After the skydive Kimberley said: “I am so proud and I really hope this money helps the charity. I am forever grateful for APP.”
You can still visit and donate to her fundraising page here.
If you have been inspired by Kimberley, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have. Get in touch here.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is partnering with national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) to expand specialist peer support services across the region.
Recruitment is currently underway for a dedicated peer support facilitator to work with mothers based in the Black Country who have experienced postpartum psychosis – a severe postnatal mental illness. The service will be managed by APP in conjunction with the Trust, to support women on their road to recovery.
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.
Dr Jess Heron, CEO, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, said: “We currently run a number of successful peer support services across the country commissioned by the NHS, including one in partnership with nearby Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. In combining this type of peer support with the necessary clinical care required we can ensure that women receive a truly holistic, sustained and specialist treatment. It can be daunting leaving hospital after experiencing something as confusing and frightening as postpartum psychosis, so making this additional support available within the community is invaluable for ongoing recovery. Being able to support women and families at this critical stage is key to reducing the trauma, giving hope, and helping women and families feel less alone as they navigate the recovery process.”
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 Black Country Healthcare on this project and I’m looking forward to 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, visit www.app-network.org/jobs
For International Fathers Mental Health Day (21 June 2021), Simon, Partner Peer Support Facilitator for Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), shares a little of his own experience of supporting someone with postpartum psychosis and the effect it can have across the family.
Postpartum psychosis (PP) - never even heard of it? Neither had I but it would shortly become one of the biggest learning experiences I’d ever endured and really tested my mental well-being.
In the first couple of weeks after my wife gave birth, I had noticed subtle changes in her mood, but, as a first-time father, I didn’t really know what was ‘usual’ or ‘unusual’ after birth. A few weeks later and these changes took a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse, things became very scary, very quickly.
Over the next few days, she woke in the early hours ‘ghost like’, her mood had plummeted, she was anxious, confused, pacing around the house, having delusions and hallucinations, ultimately it all ended in a 999 call. I found myself in complete turmoil and throughout our journey with PP, had times where I went through every emotion possible - from being terrified, to feeling isolated, worried about the future and even feeling guilt-ridden for decisions I’d had to take; with little sleep, the pressure I felt was enormous, however, the support we received from family, friends and eventually specialist health professionals treating my wife was vital.
Now working as the Partner Peer Support Facilitator for Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), the leading national charity for women, partners and families affected by PP, we know how difficult PP can be and how it affects not only the women who directly experience it, but also the partners and families who watch their loved ones go through it. This trauma can have a lasting effect on the wider family’s mental health, if not supported appropriately.
Father’s mental health
“She just stood there and screamed.”
“Somehow she had changed the world and she was watching the news, in the belief that she would see herself on it and they would report on what she had done.”
During the initial crisis, many partners describe feeling like their world has been turned upside down, with little or no control over the situation. They often talk of not knowing what was happening, feeling alone and scared; desperate to find information and to help their partner.
Postpartum psychosis as a father or partner, feels very much like a journey with a number of possible stages, from the initial crisis, potential admission to hospital, returning home and recovery - all of which bring different feelings and concerns to the fore. Just holding it together, having to keep strong for your wife or family members can sometimes see you not considering or letting on how worried you are, which in turn can lead to fathers suffering with their own mental ill-health.
What is postpartum psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a severe but treatable form of mental illness. It usually starts within the first couple of days to weeks after childbirth. Some develop symptoms very quickly whereas for others, symptoms can be more gradual or come and go. 50% of women experience postpartum psychosis “out of the blue” with no previous history of mental health problems.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms often include:
• Confusion or racing thoughts
• Feeling unusually high or elated
• Being unable to or not needing to sleep
• Beliefs that are unusual or concerning to others
• Seeing, hearing or sensing things that others can’t
There are a great many other symptoms that can be experienced and you can find more information by visiting the following link: www.app-network.org/early-symptoms
Getting help for your partner
It is important that PP is always treated as a medical emergency, which requires rapid intervention and is best treated in a specialised Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). With the right treatment and support, women with PP do make a full recovery and families are able to move on with their lives together.
• If your partner is under the care of a mental health team, contact them or your Crisis Team
• If your partner hasn’t been in mental health services before:
o See your GP urgently (the same day) or contact NHS 111
o If you cannot see your GP, go to your local A&E department
• If you think there is imminent danger (e.g. that your partner may hurt herself) call 999 and ask for an ambulance
Getting help for you
• Talk with your wife/partner’s medical team
• See your own GP
• Confide in a trusted family member or friend
• Speak to APP, see below and our website, for all our possible support options too
What’s the outlook for a family that has experienced PP?
Extremely good, with the right treatment the majority of women go on to make a full recovery and return to their normal selves, embracing motherhood and enjoying family life. While recovery can often be a long journey, there is hope and all of our storytellers and volunteers at APP, both women and their partners, are proof that people can and do recover.
Support at APP
We know that partners contact us at many different stages throughout their journey – whether in the early days of the crisis, partway through the journey or, in some instances, even years later.
APP are here to support you along the journey, no matter when you feel you need it. Our website has lots of information, guides and links to getting help:
• Action on Postpartum Psychosis | National charity supporting women and families
• 1:1 chat support via email, call or video
• Resources for Partners - https://www.app-network.org/partners
• PP Insider Guides – includes a partner guide - https://www.app-network.org/what-is-pp/app-guides
• APP Partners Group on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/APPpartnersgroup
• Partner virtual café
Please do get in touch if we can help you, see our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More on Action for Postpartum Psychosis
APP is the leading charity supporting women, partners and families affected by PP. It’s a collaborative project run by people who have lived experience of PP, specialist health professionals and academic experts from Birmingham & Cardiff universities; our aims include:
• To provide up to date information to women and their families who have experienced PP
• To facilitate a peer support network for women and their families
• To increase awareness of PP, its symptoms, management and impact among health professionals and the general public
• To facilitate research into all aspects of PP
• To advocate for improved services for women and their families
Thank you to Dom Bamber who is helping to raise money for APP by selling a charity wax melt called SPERO, which means hope in Latin.
Dom is a big supporter of APP and has a sister who was affected by the illness so the charity is close to his heart. Dom has held several fundraisers for us over the last few years including a Skydive in 2019 and TikTok live stream event in January 2021. He is also taking part in our Miles for Mums and Babies Challenge which you can sign up for here, and you can donate to Dom’s challenge here.
Thank you Dom for your continued support of APP.
If you have been inspired by Dom, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have! Get in touch here. We would love to support any event you choose.