APP welcomes the findings of the Welsh Government’s Children, Young People and Education Committee Inquiry into Perinatal Mental Healthcare in Wales. The report is released today and can be read in full here.
Dr Jess Heron, Director of APP, says:
"The situation for Welsh families who develop Postpartum Psychosis has been totally inadequate. Mums who become ill in Wales have had to make the decision between being separated from their baby for treatment in a General Adult Unit, where specialist knowledge and appropriate facilities are lacking, or being transferred to a specialist Mother & Baby Unit in England, miles away from their partners, families and support networks. The recommendations made here are a positive step forward for Wales, and give us real optimism for the future."
Congratulations to Emily Slater, Director of the Everyone's Business Campaign, who received a very special invitation to attend Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 10th October, World Mental Health Day.
Last month Jess, Ian and Anna ran the first of our exciting new APP Workforce Training days at St. Ann’s Hospital in North London. These days, commissioned by NHS Trusts from across the county, have been designed to equip medical professionals with an in depth understanding of all aspects of PP. This first group of twenty spanned a broad spectrum of professional roles within the Perinatal Mental Health Service for this area, including Midwives, Social Workers, Health Visitors, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and CPN’s.
'APP attended the first Annual UK Maternal Mental Health Conference which was a sold-out event, with over 250 people converging on Imperial College, in London on 13th September 2017. I was looking forward to seeing others involved in APP, including our Trustee & Vice Chair of MMHA, Clare Dolman, Regional Rep & Media volunteers Kathryn Grant, Fiona Putnam and Eve Canavan, and those from other organisations involved in Perinatal Mental Health. It was a day full of passion, with so much expertise in the room, and a prestigious line-up of speakers from the UK and beyond.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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!
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.