It was amazing to be at the House of Commons last week for the #HopeDec09 event, organised by obstetrician, Raja Gangopadhay, and attended by around 150 others with an interest, passion or professional role in perinatal mental health.
APP’s Chair, Giles Berrisford, opened proceedings in his role of Associate National Clinical Director PMH, reporting that things do seem to be changing and there is more awareness and profile than ever before, but of course, there is so much more to do.
It is always inspiring to hear Alain Gregoire of the MMHA speak and his words about maternal mental health and its far-reaching consequences being “the most important issue for humanity today” was really great to hear.
I wish there had been more time to talk about APP and the amazing peer support it offers, together with our pilot Regional Reps work to spread awareness of the organisation and that PP can affect anyone, as it did me. This slide said a lot for me: “Full Recovery is Possible. Please seek help early. No-one is immune.”
The event focused on the importance of addressing mental health conditions during pregnancy and beyond and we heard from a diverse range of those with “lived experience” – it is so important to share these stories. PP and schizophrenia were powerfully presented by artist, Sanchita Islam and PND movingly by Lindsay Robinson of haveyouseenthatgirl.com and Mark Williams of Fathers Reaching Out Wales.
Antoinette Sandbach MP also had a number of people in tears as she spoke emotively about her experience of bereavement and the effect that this can have on women and families. The heads that nodded along (including my own), as if to say “me too” at various times during all of the speeches was really amazing to see.
It was fantastic that the whole of the UK and beyond was represented in the room, with people standing up to talk about changes in Scotland and the ongoing campaign for a Mother & Baby Unit in Wales. Lindsay had also spoken of changes she is working towards in Northern Ireland. As a proud Yorkshire lass, I enjoyed meeting up with others from the north – it is sometimes easy for us to be forgotten in the blur of all things perinatal and activity that naturally often centres on London and the other big cities. I had great conversations with another peer support organisation Raindrops to Rainbows, who are based in the north-east and supporting women and families affected by PND, so there may be ways for us to link in in the future. Our chats continued on the train north at the end of a long, exciting and inspirational day.
Words from representatives of the Royal Colleges of GPs and Midwives together with a former Royal Obstetrician and a response from the Duchess of Cornwall which was read to the room showed that the event had a really high profile. Together with those from the media and a range of organisations I hope that this really gave the event some clout to effect real change. I hear that it trended on Twitter throughout the day – surely the mark of success!
Hannah Bissett is APP’s Assistant Peer Support Coordinator.