APP were delighted to be invited to take part in the Devon Partnership NHS Trust’s ‘I’m Fine’ perinatal mental health training events earlier this year. The three ‘I’m Fine’ training days took place in various locations throughout Devon and Cornwall and were aimed at any front line staff who might come into contact with a women in the perinatal period to understand how to manage people respectfully and assist them; to recognise that when women say ‘I’m fine’ they might not in truth mean this.
Three of APP’s Expert by Experience speakers attended all three events, alongside speakers from other charities including Bluebell and Dads in Mind, to help staff engage and understand why they need to go that extra mile.
Jessie attended the first session in Saltash, Cornwall, she said:
“It was so good to have input to “I’m Fine” as a lived experience speaker. I especially enjoyed the Q&A session, which included good responses and feedback from the delegates, and found it interesting to add tips on treatment and recovery from my own experience. The theatre production was very powerful too. It is so important to show that recovery from PP is possible and to try to make a difference to professionals, and the people they will support in the future.”
Naomi attended the second session at Exeter racecourse and said:
“The I’m Fine SW event in Exeter was a unique and exciting event to be part of. The mixture of forum theatre and group table discussions ensured that lived experience remained at the heart of the event. Friction is a powerful theatre piece, and each time I see it I find that I do get emotional. It revisits some of the very difficult feelings that families experience as they try to seek help for severe perinatal mental illness, and is very raw and powerful.
I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to staff who are often ‘first responders’ in times of crisis – paramedics, the police and crisis team staff. I felt treated as an equal in the room, even with very senior staff, and the facilitators made provision for anyone affected by the themes throughout the day to seek support. The impact of perinatal mental health problems on the developing child was handled sensitively, hopefully and realistically by a speaker from the Institute of Health Visiting, which is so important when you have parents in the room. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, the chance to promote the work of APP through recording a podcast, and the chance to meet other parents.”
And Sally attended the third and final session in Bristol on 30th June, she commented:
“It was a real privilege to be invited to the ‘I’m fine’ event in Bristol in June 2017. The morning session was very powerful. We watched a very relevant and truthful theatre performance about a couple who had recently had a baby and the mother was suffering from postnatal mental illness. The performance was based on real events and conversations with other mothers and families who had been through similar experiences. This gave a particularly accurate account of the events, feelings and thoughts of a family going through this. It was so helpful for the health professionals to see this and to see what goes on ‘behind closed doors’ and provided a valuable forum for discussion about how to talk to a patient experiencing postnatal mental illness.
The afternoon was led by the ‘experts by experience’. There were 3 mothers who described their experience to the delegates, who then chose which mother they wanted to spend an hour with, listening to and asking questions. The conditions included post-natal depression, anxiety and psychosis. As well as telling my story, I was able to answer questions posed by GPs, midwives, health care assistants and those working in the mental health sector. The delegates fed-back to me on the day and told me that not only was this session powerful and moving, but it also gave them an opportunity to ask anything they wanted to about postpartum psychosis. This included questions about the initial symptoms, types of treatments, recovery, my feelings about what happened and my relationship with my daughter. The overall feeling from the day was that the health professionals will remember these personal stories, which will impact on patient care in the future. It was inspiring to see so many health professionals interested and committed to improving antenatal and postnatal mental health care and I am confident that by talking about my experience of postpartum psychosis I have had an impact on shaping the future of these services.”