The character of Sarah Platt in Coronation Street is currently under psychiatric care in a Mother and Baby Unit having experienced psychotic episodes. On Monday 4th July she was diagnosed on screen with Postpartum Psychosis (PP).
It is good to see that Postpartum Psychosis is being tackled by the major soaps, and that the term is receiving wider use. For years, PP has been a silent mental illness. Many women and families affected by PP have not previously heard of it. They do not know: the signs and symptoms to watch out for; where to get help; or that they will recover. Many struggle to discuss their experiences with friends or other new mums, for fear of stigma, and because most of their friends have also not heard of it.
Unfortunately APP was not approached or consulted about this storyline. APP have requested that the programme list us on ITV’s Advice webpage, but the programme have stated that they cannot. MIND have told us that they will direct any enquires they receive to APP – to our website, email and peer support forum.
There is a concern being expressed by many of our members that the experience and symptoms the character Sarah Platt is portraying in the soap opera are not typical of PP, and not in line with their own experience of the illness.
Although PP can manifest in a wide variety of ways and it is hard to describe a ‘typical case’, it would be more usual for PP to begin in the first few days following childbirth, with women developing hallucinations, delusions, mania, depression, odd and erratic behaviour. It can get worse very quickly and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Most women need to be admitted to a Mother & Baby unit for treatment. To date, there has been little evidence that social or psychological factors play a major role in causing PP, for most women. Research suggests that a person’s genes may play a role, as well as sleep disruption, and the major hormonal and biological changes that occur around the time of birth.
PP affects people of all social classes, education levels, family backgrounds and cultures. PP can happen ‘out of the blue’ to women without previous experience of mental illness. There are some groups of women, women with a history of bipolar disorder for example, who are at much higher risk.
APP offers support to all women suffering from psychosis in the postpartum year. Whether an episode is triggered by childbirth or later in the postpartum year, many of the issues women need support with when ill and managing a baby will be the same.
• Insider Guides – developed with the help of women who have experienced PP and their partners www.app-network.org/what-is-pp/app-guides
• Peer Support – an online forum where you can talk to other women and partners that have ‘been there’ www.app-network.org/peer-support
• 1:1 email support – we can connect you with a trained peer supporter – all of whom have recovered from PP www.app-network.org/peer-support