Natalie Thompson has worked with APP since 2019 and is based in our Birmingham and Solihull peer support teams. 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 to wake me up. Steaming hot brew at the ready, I’ll check my emails to see if there’s anything urgent I need to respond to and contact any women I am due to see that day to make sure meeting is still convenient for them.
I’ll make my way over to a local children's centre where I support with NHS Perinatal groups such as Play and Stay and Baby Massage. Sometimes I help facilitate other interventions such as Tree of Life and Five to Thrive.
It's good to have a Peer in the groups to be able to support the mums as someone who’s walked in similar shoes. 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).
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 and another cup of tea!
After lunch, I might attend an MDT meeting - multi disciplinary team meeting. 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 I’ll make sure I get moving and get some fresh air by doing a social walk with one of the women on my caseload who is recovering from PP. These ‘walk and talk’ peer support meetings are great – 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. From these meet ups I’ll write up my notes to make sure I am able to reflect on any areas I need to follow up on.
I will make time to contact women on my caseload to see if they want to talk through anything over the phone or indeed want to meet up in the coming weeks.
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. I’ll check out the venue, make sure they have good facilities and open space for little ones, etc. Then, I’ll email participants a little reminder of where café groups take place, and 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.