New play shines humorous light into the darkest corners of motherhood

 

after birth, written by Zena Forster and directed by Grace Duggan, is a new comedy deeply rooted in the real life testimonies of women who have experienced postpartum psychosis, including many women within the APP network.

The play is being brought to life by Maiden Moor Productions and will open on Monday 10 June at the North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford. Imaginatively staged, with elements of stand-up and a dynamic original sound score, after birth takes us on a journey of recovery.

The story revolves around holiday camp entertainer Ann, who, alongside the Virgin Mary, has been detained without trial on a medieval plague island in the middle of the Venetian Lagoon.  Buffoonish and malevolent by turns, their doctors are intent on curing them of their heinous crime - Being A Bad Mum.   This is the world of Ann’s mind.  after birth’s protagonist is experiencing postpartum psychosis after the birth of her baby.

The lead character’s experiences might be extreme, but they are recognisable and relatable: what mother hasn’t felt judged, or been demoralised by the myth of the perfect mum?

Playwright Zena Forster said; “Just as the women I interviewed didn’t want to be defined by their illness, after birth isn’t a play about psychosis, it’s a play about a tough, witty woman who happens to have psychosis.  The women I interviewed were amazing – courageous, inspirational and often very funny, it was natural that my protagonist was like that too.”

Grace Duggan, Director said, “Zena has created this incredibly detailed and responsive play about the realities of postpartum psychosis.  after birth doesn’t hold its tongue, it doesn’t shield us from the truth, and it doesn’t stop us from awkwardly laughing with a psychotic mother. We want people to start talking about postpartum psychosis and continue the discussion about the pressure of motherhood. Through our characters and with this story we hope to expose it all and have a laugh along the way.”

after birth grew out of collaboration between Zena Forster and researchers at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU), Oxford University. For 40 years the NPEU has been the ‘go to’ international centre of research into women’s physical and mental health.  Their annual reports have consistently shown that in the UK suicide stubbornly remains the leading direct cause of maternal death between six weeks and one year after birth, with women from ethnically diverse communities disproportionately affected. The NPEU were keen to find new ways of disseminating their findings with a view to effecting change.

Zena interviewed many women with lived experience of postpartum psychosis, travelling miles around the country to do so. Both Zena and director Grace Duggan dramaturged the piece extensively, developing it significantly for performance in 2021. after birth was awarded the Propeller 2020 opportunity by North Wall, Oxford which includes three performance dates 10, 11, 12 June 2021. A film of the staged performance is also being made and the NPEU are undertaking further research of how this filmed performance could be used in both therapeutic settings and in health professional education.

The time has never been riper for a recovery story. after birth is an opposite celebration of resilience in the face of inequality and adversity. There is a growing need and appetite for work that explores the disadvantages that women face in our unequal, patriarchal society.  Between eight and nine out of ten women in the UK will become mothers. The pandemic has exposed and heightened the inequalities they face.  More and more evidence is emerging that maternal mental health has suffered over the last year, with black and brown mums disproportionately affected. after birth creates a timely space for us to talk about these pressing issues.

As an international centre for research into women’s health and as a vibrant creative hub, Oxford was the perfect place for this play to be developed. Oxford’s North Wall has long been committed to nurturing creative talent – Alice Vilanculo (actor), Will Alder (sound design), Grace Duggan (director) all received early career support through the theatre’s various development programmes and are delighted to be back in Oxford as established artists.  Likewise, Oxfordshire Theatre Makers (OTM) and Arts at the Old Fire Station provided backing and opportunities to develop and promote the play.  Oxford’s supportive city council provided important early seed funding.  Oxford colleges have helped with funding too. after birth’s playwright Zena Forster is based in Oxford, as is Bafta award winning film maker Jo Eliot who will be filming the performance.

Commenting on  after birth, Professor  Rachel Rowe, Senior Health Services Researcher, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit said “through after birth we hope to engage audiences with research evidence about maternal mental health, to raise awareness, reduce stigma, encourage discussion and ultimately improve care and outcomes for women affected by postnatal mental illness. The play promotes some key public health messages about postnatal mental health, but importantly it’s also funny and full of hope – it should be a really good night out.”

To book tickets, click here

Read full news item

Stephen's Virtual Marathon

 

 

 

 

 

A huge thank you to Stephen Vinter who took part in a virtual marathon on Sunday 30th May 2021 to raise awareness and money to support APP’s work. Stephen’s friends Alex, Colin, James and Mike also ran with him for parts of the marathon. Stephen is the husband of APP Volunteer Gemma, who organised pamper packs to be delivered at Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) last Christmas, and to the new MBU that has recently opened in Wales. You can read a news article about this on our website here.

Stephen had originally planned to run the Edinburgh Marathon in 2020, but after it was cancelled for the third time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he decided to run the marathon virtually instead.

Stephen said ’In 2017, after the birth of our wonderful son, my wife suffered from an illness called postpartum psychosis (PP), hospitalising her for three months in an MBU. She was absolutely amazing and inspiring in the way she handled her recovery while continuing to be a fantastic mum. She suffered severe anxiety and depression for the following 12 months. She is now doing volunteer work for APP, helping other mums in their recovery as well as visiting MBUs.

It is definitely my turn to do my bit for a charity that is now very close to our hearts. Just under a year ago I could hardly run around the block but I decided I would set myself the challenge of getting fit with the secret objective of taking on a big challenge of completing at least one race a month for 12 months to keep me motivated. I have now completed eight 10 kilometre runs, a 10 mile race, a half marathon and a family Santa run with a further 10k and a half marathon to go before I attempt to run the big event.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

After running the virtual marathon, Stephen said ‘I am really pleased to complete the marathon and more importantly raise money to support APP. Thank you all so much for your unbelievably kind donations and support throughout. Myself and Gemma have been blown away by your kindness’.

Stephen’s fundraiser has raised more than £3,000 for APP. We would like to thank Stephen, Gemma and their friends for supporting APP and everyone who has donated.

You can still visit and donate to Stephen’s fundraising page here.

If you have been inspired by Stephen, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have. Get in touch here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read full news item

Miles for Mums and Babies Fundraisers

APP would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who is supporting our #MilesForMumsAndBabies challenge. We’re aiming to raise more than £10,000 to support our work by asking people to walk, run or cycle 10 miles, 20 miles, 500 miles or even 1,000 miles! Each mile reflects the journey mums, babies, partners and families travel to be together, whilst mums receive care in Mother and Baby Units (MBUs). We’ve had a fantastic response to the challenge so far. Our fundraisers include:

Katherine Paul and her son Harris walked 3 miles in one day on 6th May (during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week). Katherine was hospitalised in 2019 and 2020 and each mile represented the journey she and Harris made in and out of Florence House MBU. Katherine and Harris raised £76.82 for APP. You can still visit and donate to their JustGiving page  here.

 

Dorota Donigiewicz walked more than 100 miles during May to support MilesForMumsAndBabies. Dorota experienced postpartum psychosis (PP) in 2015 after the birth of her first child and says during her recovery she found APP’s forum and other resources very valuable. Dorota has raised £420.75 for APP.

 

Consultant Psychiatrist, Neha Rawat, and her family covered 534 miles in May through a combination of walking, running, jumping and crawling! The Rawat-Sharmas chose their target to represent the distance between the NHS Lothian Livingston MBU in Scotland and Jasmine Lodge MBU in Devon. Neha said they wanted to highlight the fact many families travel hundreds of miles to be together whilst a mum is being treated in hospital for severe mental illness. Neha and her family have raised more than £300 for APP. You can still donate to their JustGiving fundraising page here.

 

The team from the MBU at Glasgow’s Leverndale Hospital and colleagues from the Community Perinatal Mental Health Team challenged themselves to walk 10,000 steps a day throughout May. APP has supported the MBU and the Glasgow team wanted to take part in #MilesForMumsAndBabies to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis and to support APP. The team went for walks before, during and after work (with and without patients), and have raised more than £5,800 for APP. You can still donate to their JustGiving page here.

 

Hannah Bose walked and cycled 95.19 miles during May – that’s the distance from her house to the nearest MBU in Exeter, Devon. Hannah was joined on her walks by her cockapoo, Tessie. Hannah works for the DadPad (a guide for new dads developed with the NHS), and APP's Partner Peer Support Facilitator Simon O'Mara recently wrote a blog about PP for their website which you can read here. Hannah has raised over £290 for APP. You can still donate to Hannah – and Tessie’s –  fundraising page here.

 

Crisse Buttery works within the community perinatal team as a mental health nurse and has close links to the MBU at Wythenshawe. Crisse walked 22 miles in a day - which represents the 22 MBUs in the UK - on 21st June, International Fathers Mental Health Day. Her aim was to raise awareness of the impact that PP has not only on mum and baby but on fathers too. Crisse has raised £490. As this illness impacts the whole family unit, the money will be split between APP and the MBU at Wythenshawe. You can still visit her JustGiving Crowdfunding page here.

 

Ailania Fraser walked 22 miles in June to support MilesForMumsAndBabies- that’s the distance between Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Livingston MBU. This represents the journey she travelled when diagnosed with PP in April 2019, during which time she spent around seven weeks under the amazing care of the Livingston MBU. Ailania’s husband Stephen and their two year old son joined her on a lot of the walks.  Ailania and her family have raised £100 for APP.

 

Lucy Nichol, APP’s Media Coordinator, and her friends Caroline, Bex, and Johanna, challenged themselves to walk, jog, cross train or run as many miles as they could throughout the month of June to raise money for APP. Lucy wanted to raise awareness of PP amongst a wider community, and spread the word as far as possible. She wanted to get outside and build her fitness back up as exercise is good for mental health. She and her friends completed 381 miles and have raised £290 for APP. You can still donate to their JustGiving page here.

 

Anna Grisedale had PP in 2015 and 2018, and challenged herself to walk 119 miles, which represents the journey she made from Leeds to the MBU in Morpeth with her first born. Anna was initially admitted to Morpeth as no bed was available in Leeds MBU. After a few weeks, she was transferred back to Leeds, which enabled Anna’s family to visit her regularly. She says this was a lifeline to her and her family. During her illness she experienced the therapeutic benefits of walking.

Watch this Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust film to find out more about Anna's challenge;

Anna has raised over £1500 for her challenge via JustGiving and said 'Thank you so much for all the amazingly generous donations which will help support so many women, babies and their families. I have loved every step of my walks and have been overwhelmed by the wonderful messages of support. I have huge appreciation to all the staff at Leeds MBU who enabled me to be with my babies throughout my illness, which allowed our bond to remain strong throughout and  is paramount for families like ours'.  You can still donate to her JustGiving page here.

 

Danielle Thomas APP’s Assistant South Wales Coordinator, and her husky dog Lyra, walked 106 miles during June and July, which represents the distance from their house to the Melbury Lodge MBU in Winchester. Danielle experienced PP after the birth of her daughter in 2017, at which time there was no MBU in Wales. This meant she was a 2.5 hour journey away from family and friends during her stay at Winchester MBU. This April the new Uned Gobaith (Unit of Hope) MBU opened in Wales and Danielle was able to collaborate with its planners and artists through APP. Danielle and Lyra have raised £660 for APP. You can still donate to their JustGiving page here.

 

Emma Charlton works at Beadnell MBU in Morpeth. Along with her colleague Katie, Emma walked 161 miles over a 12 week period to raise money for APP. Emma chose the distance to represent the 161 women admitted to the ward since she started working in Perinatal Services. Emma and Katie were accompanied by other colleagues on some of their longer walks and have raised £1150 for APP. You can still donate to Emma’s challenge here.

 

Naomi Gilbert, APP’s Assistant Peer Support Coordinator, took part in her first ever triathlon on 26th September. She chose a triathlon to highlight that during her recovery from PP she had to go to three separate psychiatric hospitals without her daughters, as there was no local Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) at the time. Naomi completed three challenges - swimming, cycling and running - in 1 hour 53 minutes and her younger daughter Ella helped her to run to the finish line. Naomi has raised more than £1,100 for APP via her Facebook fundraising page which you can still donate to here.

 

Rachel Kerr walked 100 miles for her MilesForMumsAndBabies challenge. Rachel was hospitalised for three weeks in 2016 having developed PP after the birth of her daughter. Last year, she gave birth to her son and received support from APP. Rachel has raised more than £45 for APP.

 

The team from the new Perinatal Mental Health Service in Ayrshire and Arran challenged themselves to walk 1,400 miles throughout October. They work with mums who are affected by severe mental illness in the perinatal period, and wanted to take part in #MilesForMumsAndBabies to raise awareness of PP, support APP, and come together as a team. They chose the distance as it represents the 1,400 mums who experience PP in the UK each year. The team have raised more than £1250 for APP. You can still donate to their challenge here.

 

Emily Saunders, a peer support volunteer with APP, walked and cycled more than 500 miles between 1st July and 14th November 2021. These dates are important to her as they are the dates she went into and then finally came out of Nottingham MBU in 2017 (having had two stays) when she had PP, severe PND and anxiety after the birth of her daughter. Emily chose the distance as it represents the almost 500 miles from the most northerly to the most southerly MBU. Emily has raised more than £506 for APP. You can still donate to her challenge here.

 

Shirley Holmes, a health visitor, has walked the six different paths up Snowdon, a total of 48.5 miles. with her husband and sister joining her for some of the walks. Shirley decided to fundraise for APP after recently learning more about postpartum psychosis. She’s also keen to support our campaign for an MBU in North Wales. Shirley’s first part of her challenge started in May and she finished the six routes in October. Shirley, her husband and sister have raised more than £472 for APP. You can still donate to their challenge here.

 

As a team of 11, Rachel Lucas and her family and friends walked 1,400 miles for APP during November. Rachel experienced PP two years ago and spent six weeks in Leeds MBU. Rachel is a big supporter of APP and is also one of our trained Peer Support Volunteers. She held a fundraiser with her family and friends called ‘Four million steps for APP’ during November last year. She has also developed the ‘Blooming Mum to Be’ and ‘Brand New Mum’ boxes which she is selling via her website www.pourlamaman.co.uk, donating some of the profits to both APP and PANDAS Foundation. Rachel and her team have raised more than £360 for APP and the donations will be match funded by Rachel’s employer. You can still donate to their challenge here.

 

Stephanie Fakharzadeh was hospitalised in an adult psychiatric ward in the USA in 2020 after giving birth to her daughter. Covid-19 restrictions meant she wasn’t allowed to see her baby for five days. Stephanie has walked 100 miles during 2021 – the round-trip distance it would have taken for her to visit her daughter once a day during her hospital stay. She was joined by others on her fundraising walks to share postpartum and perinatal stories and to offer support. Stephanie has raised more than £1070 for APP. You can still donate to her challenge here.

 

Debbie Sells is the Ward Manager on the MBU at Nottingham and has covered more than 1,000 miles during 2021 through a combination of walking and running. She has worked on the ward for 24 years, and the 1,000 miles represents the long distance many families travel to receive specialist inpatient care. Debbie says that APP provides vital support for women and families who experience maternal mental illness. Debbie has raised more than £967 for APP. You can still donate to her challenge here.

...

Inspired to join in the #MilesForMumsAndBabies challenge? Find out more and sign up here >
Read full news item

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

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

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

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

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

Postpartum psychosis is a severe postnatal mental illness that affects 1,400 women and their families every year in the UK – from all backgrounds. Half of cases are ‘out of the blue’ with women having no history of mental illness. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, mania, depression, restlessness, anxiety, confusion, and erratic behaviour  - which can manifest within days of childbirth. With the right treatment, women can fully recover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read full news item

Raising awareness of postpartum psychosis this Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

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

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

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

 

How you can help

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

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


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

 

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

 

 

 

For further information on postpartum psychosis please use this link

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

 

Read full news item

Dale’s 250 Mile Charity Walk in Memory of Claire Donald

Thank you to Dale Marr who walked 250 miles during April and May, to honour the memory of her sister Claire Donald. Dale wanted to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis (PP) and help APP to support women and families who are affected by the illness.

Dale said ‘On 17th January ten years ago I tragically lost my sister to the horrible illness postpartum psychosis. We are very blessed that Claire left behind her two beautiful daughters and we see so much of her in them. It means so much to me that other women and their families get the help and support they need.

Thank you so much to everyone that has donated to help raise awareness of this fantastic charity.’

 

Dale on her wedding day with her sister Claire

Dale’s fundraiser has raised more than £1,400 for APP. We would like to thank Dale for supporting APP and everyone who has donated. You can still visit and donate to Dale’s fundraising page here.

If you have been inspired by Dale, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have. Get in touch here.

 

 

Read full news item

Peer support service launches in Morpeth for mothers experiencing postpartum psychosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read full news item

Katherine Kay’s 40 Miles in 40 Days Sea Swim in Memory of Amy Rogers

A huge thank you to Katherine Kay who took part in a sponsored 40 miles in 40 days sea swim in Poole, to honour the memory of her friend Amy Rogers. Katherine wanted to raise awareness and money for both APP and Winston’s Wish, a bereavement charity that provides emotional and practical support to children and their families after the death of a parent or sibling. Katherine started the sponsored sea swim in May and finished the 40 miles on 25th June, which would have been Amy’s 40th birthday.

Katherine said ‘Nearly three years ago, my wonderful, hilarious, big-hearted friend Amy was lost during a postpartum psychotic episode, five days after giving birth to her second son. She is missed so much by everyone who knew her.

Amy loved lots of things: playing the piano, chocolate cheesecake, Ryan Gosling… and swimming in the sea.

 

Katherine's friend, Amy

I’m raising money for two charities which helped Amy’s family after we tragically lost her; Action on Postpartum Psychosis and Winston’s Wish.

Wish me luck… and wish Amy a Happy 40th in your own way. She loved a celebration!’

Katherine swam along Branksome beach, as well as in Osmington Mills, for the duration of her challenge, and said ‘The first ten days were pretty hard, seeing as the weather was windy and rainy and the sea conditions were rough. But since the weather has improved, a lot of my swims have been so beautiful. I’ve been doing a lot of my swims before the morning school run, so I have been in the sea around 5.30am. One morning, the full moon was still out, which was pretty magical.

After my final swim, Amy's family and I drank champagne on the beach and raised a glass to her. I have been absolutely blown away with what I have raised so far. People have been really generous. Everyone who met Amy loved her, so the amount is a testament to how loved she was’.

Katherine has raised more than £9,600. We would like to say a huge thank you to Katherine for supporting both APP and Winston’s Wish, and to all who have donated. You can still visit and donate to Katherine’s fundraising page here.

If you have been inspired by Katherine, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have. Get in touch here.

 

Read full news item

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It made a big difference to my recovery.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read full news item

Wellbeing Boxes

Thank you to Rachel Lucas who is helping to raise money for APP with her wellbeing boxes for motherhood, supporting women in pregnancy and postpartum.

Rachel developed postpartum psychosis in the days following the birth of her daughter Evelyn and spent six weeks in Leeds Mother and Baby Unit (MBU).

She has now developed the Brand New Mum box which she is selling via her website www.pourlamaman.co.uk, donating some of the profits to both APP and PANDAS Foundation. You can watch a video of the wellbeing boxes here.

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel says ‘As mums, we face new challenges daily, and these challenges become even harder when all our time and energy is used up on our little ones. It is so important we take the time to recharge, and think about our needs too. I was inspired to do something to help make things a little easier for mums, and so Pour la Maman was born.  With our thoughtfully curated wellbeing boxes to support women in pregnancy, postpartum and beyond, we truly hope we can make a difference. We hope you love our boxes as much as we do.’

Rachel is a big supporter of APP and is also one of our trained Peer Support Volunteers. She held a fundraiser with her family and friends called ‘Four million steps for APP’ during the month of November last year.

Thank you Rachel for your continued support of APP.

If you have been inspired by Rachel, we would love to support any fundraising ideas you have! Get in touch here. We would love to support any event you choose.

Read full news item

185