Tag Archives: Peer support

A day in the life of…a Peer Support Facilitator: Natalie

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.

08:45

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.

09:00

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).

12:00

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.

12:30

Time for a lunch break and another cup of tea!

13:00

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.

14:00

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.

15:00

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!

16:30

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.

Read APP's July 2023 newsletter

Health professional training

New dates announced! Book on to APP’s health professionals training in postpartum psychosis (PP) and stay up to date with best practice care.

Supporting dads and co-parents affected by postpartum psychosis
This half day online workshop, led by Dr Sally Wilson and APP Partners Coordinator Simon O’Mara, is informed by real life experiences of dads and co-parents whose partners have experienced postpartum psychosis. At the end of the workshop: you will have an up-to-date knowledge of the research into the impact of PP on partners; understand the needs of dads and co-parents; and have learned about strategies and interventions to improve support.
Friday 14th July / Zoom
10am - 12.30pm BST
£99
Find out more & book: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/app-training-supporting-dads-and-coparents-tickets-648045761317

Best practice care in postpartum psychosis
This one-day online course draws upon cutting-edge research in postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder and is informed by the experiences of women and families. The course will develop knowledge, understanding, and confidence in managing this severe form of postnatal mental illness.
Wednesday 15th November / Zoom
Full day training
Early bird (to 31st July) £165, full price £195
Find out more & book: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/app-training-managing-postpartum-psychosis-for-health-professionals-tickets-496307337607

Essential knowledge for preventing maternal suicide
The Alex Baish Memorial Lecture: a free webinar for GPs, midwives, antenatal educators and frontline health professionals
Suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in the UK and rates are increasing nationally. This free lunchtime webinar aimed at frontline health professionals will outline the actions needed to support and protect women who develop the condition. The webinar will include a Q&A session with APP’s clinical, academic and lived experience experts.
Wednesday 18th October / Zoom
12pm – 1.30pm BST
Free
Register your interest at: training@app-network.org

Supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic families affected by postpartum psychosis
This new online session led by APP’s National Training Coordinator, Dr Sally Wilson, and APP’s Diverse Communities Outreach Team, will focus on supporting women and families from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities who develop postpartum psychosis. By the end of the session, you will have knowledge of the support and information needs of women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities; and have considered strategies to remove barriers and improve care.
Thursday 16th November / Zoom
12pm – 2.30pm BST
£99
Find out more & book: www.eventbrite.com/e/supporting-black-asian-and-ethnic-minority-families-affected-by-pp-tickets-671354869487

Northern Ireland campaigning update

In Northern Ireland we’re waiting for news of the next step for a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). We campaigned hard last year for public, professional and government support for the unit. The government strategic review due in the spring has been delayed until summer and we’ve heard that’s because all five Health Trusts were keen for it to be in their area.

With no Government in Northern Ireland, and no Health Minister, even when a Trust is chosen to develop a business case, nothing can be done. But we’re not going to let an MBU fall off the agenda.

We’ve got plans to lobby when politicians are back from their summer break, and we’re staying in touch with journalists who have reported on this before.

We’ve got three questions we need answered:

  • What’s the timeline for building and opening an MBU?
  • What’s the budget and where will the money come from?
  • What is going to be done for mums who need admission in the meantime?

To really make our case, we need support from women in Northern Ireland who’ve experienced postpartum psychosis. We know it’s much harder to ignore people who have real stories to tell, so we’re reaching out to anyone who is prepared to talk to media - even anonymously - or to talk to an MLA about their experience.

Please also get in touch if you used to live in Northern Ireland and had access to an MBU elsewhere in the UK that you wouldn’t have had at home - we’d love you to share your story. APP volunteer, Tara, recently shared her experience of postpartum psychosis (PP) in this podcast.

We’ll support you through the process. Even if you don’t feel certain about talking, you can give us a call to discuss it. Get in touch with Ellie here.

It’s just not fair that women have to leave Northern Ireland to get the help that’s available in all other parts of the UK, and we’re determined to change that.

#MumBabyTogetherNI

We are recruiting

APP is recruiting casual Peer Support Worker(s) to join our innovative collaborative project with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust providing peer support to inpatients at Birmingham Mother and Baby Unit (MBU).

We’re looking for people with lived experience of postpartum psychosis to help support women, one-to-one and through small group activities, at the MBU. Peer Support Workers also spend time talking to partners and families of women during the acute illness phase, sharing information, giving hope and signposting to APP’s online support, community forum, and information. Part of the role will be spent helping to run monthly café groups in the Birmingham area and - working in collaboration with Black Country Healthcare Foundation Trust - at various locations around that region. You don’t need to have experience of peer supporting. Training will be provided.

Full details of how to apply for the role are on our website. The application deadline is midnight on 21st August 2023.

Scotland Mother and Baby Unit petition


We know that some mums in Scotland who suffer from postpartum psychosis are treated in general psychiatric wards away from their baby and family.

There are currently only two specialist Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) in Scotland based in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

APP believes every family affected by PP should have access to specialist care. MBU beds accessible to women in the North of Scotland are vital.

You can help us by adding your name to this petition, developed by Lesley, one of our Scotland volunteers, which is currently under consideration by the Scottish Government. Adding your name will help the Scottish government understand how strongly we feel about access to specialist care – and keeping mums and babies together: https://petitions.parliament.scot/petitions/PE2017

#KeepMumsAndBabiesTogether

Celebrating Perinatal event

On 24th May, APP attended the "Celebrating Perinatal" event, organised by Midlands Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust and North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust.  It was a wonderful occasion to celebrate all the work done in the region over recent years, and to look back to the start of services in the North Staffs area in the 1980s.

APP’s Hannah Bissett, National NHS Contracts Coordinator, Jo Derry, Black Country Peer Support Facilitator, and Jenny Stevenson, National Online Peer Support Coordinator joined Dr Giles Berrisford, APP's Chair of Trustees, who gave a national update on the progress of perinatal services as Specialty Advisor PMH for NHS England. Hannah is pictured above with Harriet Lambah-Heap (ward manager at Brockington Parent & Baby Unit).

Color Obstacle Rush

On Saturday, June 17th, a group of 12 APP staff and families (pictured above) from the north west took part in the Color Rush at Manchester. It was such a fun event consisting of lots of coloured powder, foam, giant inflatable obstacles and maybe some running.
As a group, they managed to raise £1,086. There is still a chance to donate here.
We are thinking of doing this again next year and there are various locations all over the world! So please get in touch with fundraising@app-network.org if you’d be interested.

Professor Louise Howard, OBE

Congratulations to Professor Louise Howard who was awarded an OBE in the first King’s Birthday Honours last month for services to women's mental health.

Louise is Professor Emerita in Women’s Mental Health at King’s College London. Her research programmes aim to improve mental health service policy and practice for women. She led research that informed the updated NICE guideline on how to identify and treat perinatal mental illness and her work has also informed pregnancy planning tools commissioned by NHS England and Public Health England.

Fabulous fundraisers

Our amazing supporter Lee Smith is continuing his epic 12 month, 12 challenge fundraiser. He’s already taken part in several running events, including a back-to-back Total Warrior event followed by the Great Run 10k, he’s also climbed Scarfell Pike, run 5k a day for a month and just last month, he and his wife Jess climbed Ben Nevis.  To mark their joint achievement, their daughter made them this beautiful book as a present – she’s so proud of them and we are too. Add your support to Lee’s incredible campaign here.

Ultra Event!

We have our first APP ultra runner in action this weekend! Michael Henderson-Sowersby is taking on the mammoth 100km ‘Race to the Stones’ on 8th July, raising money for APP in memory of his school friend Alex Baish, and for another charity close to his heart - Devizes & District Opportunity Centre.  Find out more about his epic training efforts and add your support here. Good luck, Michael!

Miles for Mums and Babies

Another huge thank you to everyone who took part in our Miles for Mums and Babies challenge this year – donations are still coming in and challenges are still underway, but already our amazing fundraisers and their supporters have raised more than £20,000! This will have such an incredible impact on the work we can do supporting mums and families. Thank you so much. You can read more about our Miles for Mums and Babies adventures here.

Looking for your next challenge?

There are dozens of running events going on this October all over the country – half marathons in cities including Oxford, Glasgow, Manchester, Portsmouth and London (including the beautiful Royal Parks Half); full marathons in Chester and York, 10 milers in Leicester and Yorkshire, 10kms in Guildford, Tatton and Glasgow, and inflatable 5k fun runs in Huntingdon and Warwickshire – wherever you are and whatever level of challenge you’re looking for – we’ll find the event for you! For most events, there’s a small registration fee of just £25 and a minimum fundraising target that ranges from £100-350 depending on the race. There's still plenty of time to get your training in before October. Tempted? Email fundraising@app-network.org and we’ll sort you out with a free APP running vest and lots of support and encouragement!

Suncatchers

We’re very excited to have been donated more beautiful suncatchers, all handmade with love and care by our wonderful APP supporter, Peter the Glass.  Numbers are very limited so if you’d like one, get your order in quickly. More info here.

Research

You can help improve care for the future by supporting research into PP. Please join our lived experience network, and then contact the researchers for information on each study.

Exploring Black mothers’ experiences of postpartum psychosis and the role of racism
APP is supporting Emily Monger, a Trainee Clinical Psychologist at the University of Essex, who is exploring the experiences of postpartum psychosis for Black mothers, and how the role of racism and/or discrimination may have impacted women’s recovery for women. She is looking for women in the UK, aged 18+ who identify as being from a Black background and who have experience of PP to take part in her study. To find out more email em21633@essex.ac.uk.

The causes and triggers of postpartum psychosis
The National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) and Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) are working together to understand more about the genetic factors, and other causes and triggers of severe mental illness during pregnancy and following childbirth.

You are invited to take part in this research if you have experienced postpartum psychosis or other severe mental illness around childbirth. For more information and to sign up to participate, please visit this page.

Enhancing recovery from postpartum psychosis
A research team at the University of East Anglia, led by Dr Jo Hodgekins, would like to talk to partners of women who have experienced PP. The research team is interested in learning more about what ‘recovery’ means to people with lived experience of psychosis and their families and the kinds of issues people would like additional support with, and what this support might look like. For more information, email j.hodgekins@uea.ac.uk.

The role of sleep in the development of postpartum psychosis
APP is working with researchers at the Institute of Mental Health, Birmingham University, led by Dr Isabel Morales-Munoz, to investigate the role of sleep in postpartum psychosis (PP). If you have experienced PP, you can help by completing questionnaires about sleep patterns. To take part, register with APP’s Lived Experience network, and email: c.a.f.carr@bham.ac.uk.

If you are a researcher and would like us to support your research, please get in touch at an early stage in planning: research@app-network.org.

Dates for your diary

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria virtual café group meet up, Monday 10th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP London virtual café group meet up, Monday 10th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Grandparents virtual café group meet up, Tuesday 11th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Lancaster, Wednesday 12th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Yorkshire virtual café group meet up, Thursday 13th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackpool, Friday 14th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Dads and co-parents virtual café group meet up, Wednesday 19th July: APP regional café groups webpage

Birth Trauma Awareness Week, 16th-22nd July: www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk

APP Wales virtual café group meet up, Thursday 20th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Preston, Friday 21st July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Muslim women’s virtual café group meet up, Saturday 22nd July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Black Country face to face café group meet up at Walsall Arboretum, Wednesday 26th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackburn, Friday 28th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Preston, Saturday 12th August: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Black Country face to face café group meet up at Walsall Arboretum, Wednesday 23rd August: APP regional café groups webpage

Events

Improving Safety in Maternity Services, Thursday 13th July
Online conference focussing on a multidisciplinary approach to improving safety in maternity services following the Ockenden Review. Book tickets here.

Suicide Bereavement: Practical Applications Conference, from Tuesday 5th September
Fourth annual conference organised by Harmless featuring a series of live webinars on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The theme of this year’s event is ‘2 steps forward, 1 step back. Book tickets here.

If you would like to advertise your event here, please get in touch: app@app-network.org.

APP May Newsletter

New café groups

We’re delighted to announce the launch of two new peer support café groups for women and families affected by postpartum psychosis (PP):

On 22nd July, we’ll be holding our first online meet-up for Muslim women who have experienced psychosis in the perinatal period. The group will be run by Zebunisa and Ramlah from APP’s diverse communities outreach team for Muslim women to share experiences of PP, make new friends as well as find and offer support.

Zebunisa says: “I’m very much looking forward to meeting Muslim women who have been through postpartum psychosis. It’s a topic which isn’t discussed or mentioned enough and hopefully by meeting we can help raise awareness of mental illnesses such as PP following childbirth”.

Ramlah says: “I had PP back in 2014, after the birth of my first child. I am a British African Muslim woman with two beautiful children who I love dearly. Mental health is an open conversation I enjoy being a part of; I hope you are willing to come along and join us in this zoom call.”

If you would like to learn more or join the group, please email: zebunisa@app-network.org, or ramlah@app-network.org.

APP’s first UK-wide café group meeting will be held on 5th July. This friendly, informal meet-up on Zoom is for anyone who has experienced psychosis in the perinatal period, no matter where they live in the UK. To join, sign up on Eventbrite.

We already run nine regional café groups around the UK which meet virtually and face-to-face throughout the year. The groups are attended both by those newly recovering from PP and those who may have recovered many years ago. If you are interested in joining any of the groups – in Wales, Sussex & Hampshire, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Yorkshire, North East & North Cumbria, Lancashire & Cumbria, Birmingham and London - please email app@app-network.org.

We also run a virtual peer support group for dads and co-parents. It meets on the third Wednesday of every month and is for people who have supported a partner through PP. Our grandparents group meets approximately six times a year. If you would like to be on the mailing list for either of these groups, please email app@app-network.org.

New mother and baby unit

Plans for a new Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) - a specialist in-patient treatment unit where mums with mental illness are admitted with their babies - have been announced by Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

The eight-bed unit will be opened in Chester to support new and expectant parents across Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales.

APP’s National Training Coordinator, Dr Sally Wilson, is working with the Cheshire, Wirral and North Wales NHS teams to ensure the voices of lived experience are heard throughout the whole development process, as well as ensuring the unit helps to meet the needs of families from North Wales.

APP has long been campaigning for more MBU beds in the UK. We’re delighted that this new MBU will improve provision, enabling more mums and babies to stay together. There is work to be done to ensure that this is truly an accessible unit for women in North Wales including Welsh-speaking women and their families.

In many parts of the UK it is still the case that mothers and babies are forced to travel miles for treatment or that mums can be separated from their baby for treatment on an adult psychiatric ward. You can read more about APP’s campaigning for MBUs in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Scotland and add your voice here.

Richard's epic ride

On Monday, the incredible Richard Baish and his team of friends, will set off on a 475-mile, 5-day bike ride from Glasgow down to Oxfordshire. Richard is undertaking this challenge in memory of his wife Alex. He has already raised more than £37,000 so is well on his way to his £50,000 target.

His aim is to ensure healthcare professionals, antenatal educators and parents-to-be are made aware of the signs, symptoms and risks of PP, in the hope that no other families will have to go through what they have. We can’t thank him enough for all he has done already, and we’re all wishing him well on his ride – look out for updates on our social media feeds next week.

Dads and co-parents support

Chris, one of APP’s dads and co-parents peer supporters, took part in a podcast to share his experience of postpartum psychosis from the partner's perspective.

Chris spoke to Dr Rachel Davies, Clinical Psychologist at the Maternity Mental Health Service, for the Southern Health podcast.

Please note, this story talks about the trauma of postpartum psychosis very openly from a dad's perspective. Please take care if these are difficult topics for you at this stage in your recovery.

As Chris describes, PP is a hugely traumatic experience, not just for the women who develop it, but also for their partners and families. APP has produced an information guide for partners available here.

We are also hosting a specialist online training session: Supporting Dads and Co-parents on 14th July for health professionals and anyone interested in learning more about the impact of PP on families. The session will be delivered by the APP team along with dads and co-parents who have been affected by postpartum psychosis; share research related to the impact of PP on partners, as well as better understand the support needs of dads and co-parents.

For more information and to book a place email training@app-network.org.

Big Give - big thank you

A huge thank you to everyone who supported our Big Give campaign during Mental Health Awareness Week – to everyone to donated, and to those who shared our emails and social media posts. We hit our £5,000 target by 8pm on Saturday – nearly two days ahead of the deadline. This will make such a huge difference to our dads and co-parents support project, which is so vital for families affected by PP.

111,000 people reached during Maternal Mental Health Awareness week

The Perinatal Mental Health Partnership’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness week ran from 1st to 7th May, engaging people throughout the world. APP shared content each day and ran events, including Laura Dockrill’s fabulous creative writing workshop, Peer Support sessions reaching the international community, and a research webinar in collaboration with the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH), Birmingham University’s Institute of Mental Health and the University of East Anglia.

Thank you to everyone who shared our posts – our social media activity reached more than 111,000 people during the week.

We also launched some brand new resources:

A free online toolkit for antenatal educators to support the delivery of information about PP in classes, and our postpartum psychosis signs and symptoms poster available as a free A4 printed poster and as downloadable social media graphics.

Both have been very well received:

“Just wanted to say that your awareness campaign is great. I do talk about postnatal psychosis with my antenatal class parents-to-be but I know a number of them ‘switch off’ when we try to discuss scary subjects. I have supported one family where the mother developed PP”. - Antenatal class provider

“Thank you so much for these downloadable resources. I'm an NCT antenatal teacher and have been spending 5 mins on PP since you encouraged us to, but these resources will help make the message clearer”. - NCT antenatal teacher

British Medical Journal paper on maternal deaths

A new BMJ paper highlights the need for Government action to ensure that all health care professionals are trained to identify and manage risk of suicide in the perinatal period.  An early release of MBRRACE data for 2019-2021 shows that suicide continues to be a leading cause of death, accounting for 8% of all those who died in the first year after birth. Suicide due to postpartum psychosis can be prevented through early detection of the illness, rapid access to specialist inpatient treatment in a Mother and Baby Unit and support services (including peer support) through to full recovery and beyond.

Through NHS consultations this year, APP will call on the UK Government to make training in postpartum psychosis mandatory for all health professionals and first responders who come into contact with new parents.  Lives can be saved by ensuring all parents are aware of postpartum psychosis antenatally and training all professionals to recognise symptoms and access urgent specialist treatment.

The report highlights the continued inequalities in perinatal suicide rates - with social disadvantage and multiple adversity increasing risk significantly.  It is vital that our training reaches professional groups working in disadvantaged communities and that we continue to grow our communities outreach work.

Health professional training

We were delighted to deliver our first face to face APP workforce training day since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic COVID earlier this month with the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (pictured above).

APP’s training is suitable for any professionals working with pregnant and postnatal women and families and draws upon cutting-edge research in postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder and the real experiences of women and families. Our courses develop knowledge and confidence in identifying and managing risk, developing pregnancy and postnatal management plans, identifying early symptoms, and providing high quality support to women and families from preconception to recovery.

Booking for the next online workshop on Wednesday 15th November is now open on Eventbrite.

Workforce training days can also be commissioned by individual NHS Trusts for their teams. If you would like to learn more about APP’s training offers email training@app-network.org.

Photography help

If you’re a keen photographer in the Manchester area, could you give APP a couple of hours of your time?

We’re looking for someone to take some high-quality pictures of a training event we’re holding on Saturday 8th July.

Please get in touch (app@app-network.org) if you could help. Thank you.

News from regional projects

  • On Wednesday 22nd March, Lucy - one of APP’s Northern Ireland based volunteers - ran an awareness-raising session at a women’s group which was attended by local women as well as health and social care professionals.
    APP staff talked about our work and the need for a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland volunteer Tara shared her experience of PP with the group, many of whom were previously unaware of the condition. Their feedback included:
    “…it’s such a hard thing to talk about. It’s helped me understand a lot better and what to keep an eye out for.”
    “…she is amazing and to be able to come and speak about her experiences so honestly will truly help women as there is still stigma around mental health.”
    Further sessions for other teams of professionals and women are being planned for Northern Ireland.
    Please follow and share our campaign posts for an MBU in Northern Ireland on social media using the hashtag #MumBabyTogetherNI. You can read more about APP’s Northern Ireland campaigning here and if you have experienced PP and live in NI, get in touch.
  • MMHA week Friday 12th May - Annette and Liva (pictured above), from APP’s Lancashire and South Cumbria project, attended an event at Blackpool Victoria Hospital for Maternal Mental Health Awareness day alongside Dad Matters, The Reproductive Trauma Service, maternity services and other organisations. A great opportunity to chat to with health professionals and share ideas about maternal mental health.
  • Mother and Baby Unit Open Day Saturday 13th May - APP joined Ribblemere’s open day held at the partner house on hospital grounds for families who had previously been at the MBU. It was lovely to see how well the mums were doing and how much the babies had grown. There was face painting, a treasure hunt and lots of tea and biscuits!
  • Birmingham-based Peer Support Facilitator, Soukaina, showcased APP’s work at the Chamomile MBU’s recruitment day on 22nd May. Around 200 people visited the event where Soukaina was able to talk about her work providing peer support to women, their partners and families at the MBU as well as across the community teams we work with in the Birmingham and Solihull area.

Media and books

Jocelyn, APP’s Peer Support Facilitator, talked about her work supporting mums at Ribblemere Mother and Baby Unit in Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust’s experience of care week newsletter.

APP’s National Training Coordinator, Sally, explains why it is so important for families to have access to Mother and Baby Units in an article for Wales Online.

APP Ambassador, Catherine Cho, and Diverse Communities Outreach Worker, Zebunisa, talk to CNN about PP for a series on gender inequality.

Zebunisa talks to Tommy’s Pregnancy Hub about postpartum psychosis and antenatal education

Hannah, APP's National Coordinator for NHS Contracts and Regional Projects, spoke to Rochdale Online about the launch of our new partnership with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) to provide peer support at Andersen Ward Mother and Baby Unit.

APP’s Book Club will be meeting on Wednesday 21st June to talk about Lucy Nichol’s new book, Snowflake: Breaking Through Mental Health Stereotypes and Stigma. Book your free place on the Zoom meet-up here.

Fabulous Fundraisers

Fabulous fundraisers Flora and Mollie (pictured right) took part in the Hackney Half Marathon last Sunday, raising an awesome £3,439 for APP. They were inspired to run by their best friend who was diagnosed with PP after the birth of her son. They trained hard, had a brilliant day and crossed the line together – thank you so much to both of them.

If you feel inspired to take on a running challenge – email us fundraising@app-network.org – we have access to places in events all over the UK, including the London Landmarks Half, the Robin Hood Half, the Yorkshire Marathon, Cardiff Half, Great South Run and the Great Scottish Run, to name just a few. Get in touch if you fancy it!

It’s been our busiest May ever for Miles for Mums and Babies, with individuals and teams taking part all over the UK, covering hundreds of miles and raising thousands of pounds for APP.  You can find a mini round up here, read about Becky’s epic walk here (pictured above), Justine and team’s (pictured below) Cavehill Climb here; Nottingham MBU’s family walk hereJenny Wren’s Rattle & Rhyme group five mile buggy push and toddle; the nationwide BleepKind team smashing their 400mile challenge; plus keep an eye out for lots more updates at the end of the month.

Look out for those purple APP t-shirts if you’re out and about – in the last few weeks they’ve been spotted at the top of Scafell Pike (sported by our amazing fundraiser Lee) and at Trentham Gardens (worn by the fabulous Georgina and Chris – pictured right) Let us know if you see one of our purple tops out in the wild!

Over the next few days you might have an even better chance of spotting one than usual as so many fundraisers will be out and about all across the UK – Hazel will be cycling an amazing 65 miles in one day from Dundee to Livingston; the North Wales Perinatal Mental Health Team will be heading up Moel Famau in Denbighshire; Alice will be starting her huge 71 mile swim; Jennifer and Lee are completing a 26 mile walk to Nottingham MBU on Saturday;  Shelley and friends will be running a 5K in Stormont, NI; and one of our youngest fundraisers, 10 year old Annie, will be completing her mile a day in May challenge in Cornwall.

The month might nearly be over but it’s definitely not too late to get involved – Miles for Mums and Babies can happen whenever and however you want it to! So, if you have an idea for your own Miles for Mums and Babies challenge, we’d love to hear from you!

Research

Exploring Black mothers’ experiences of postpartum psychosis and the role of racism

APP is supporting Emily Monger, a Trainee Clinical Psychologist at the University of Essex, who is exploring the experiences of postpartum psychosis for Black mothers, and how the role of racism and/or discrimination may have impacted women’s recovery for women. She is looking for women in the UK, aged 18+ who identify as being from a Black background and who have experience of PP to take part in her study. To find out more email em21633@essex.ac.uk.

New psychological intervention to support women and families who have experienced postpartum psychosis

A research team at the University of East Anglia, led by Dr Jo Hodgekins, would like to talk to partners of women who have experienced PP. The research team is interested in learning more about what ‘recovery’ means to people with lived experience of psychosis and their families and the kinds of issues people would like additional support with, and what this support might look like. For more information, email j.hodgekins@uea.ac.uk.

The role of sleep in the development of postpartum psychosis

If you have experienced PP, we are working with a team at Birmingham University to find out more about the role of sleep in the development of PP. Anyone who has experienced PP can take part in the pilot study which will involve filling in a number of questionnaires about their sleep patterns. For more information or to take part in the study, email: I.Morales-Munoz@bham.ac.uk or c.a.f.carr@bham.ac.uk

If you are a researcher and would like us to support your research, please get in touch at an early stage in planning: research@app-network.org.

Dates for your diary

APP Yorkshire virtual café group meet up, Thursday 8th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Lancashire & South Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackpool, Friday 9th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Lancashire & South Cumbria virtual café group meet up, Monday 12th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Wales virtual café group meet up, Monday 12th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Scotland virtual café group meet up, Tuesday 13th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Lancashire & South Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Lancaster, Wednesday 14th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP London virtual café group meet up, Thursday 15th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Lancashire & South Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Preston, Friday 16th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Dads and co-parents virtual café group meet up, Wednesday 21st June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Book Club virtual meeting, Wednesday 21st June: Book here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/app-book-club-snowflake-by-lucy-nichol-tickets-641366172487?aff=ebdsoporgprofile&keep_tld=1

APP Northern Ireland virtual café group meet up, Thursday 22nd June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Lancashire & South Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackburn, Tuesday 27th June: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Sussex and Hampshire face to face café group meet up, Saturday 1st July: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP UK-wide virtual café group meet up, Wednesday 5th July: APP regional café groups webpage.

APP Muslim women’s virtual café group meet up, Saturday 22nd July: APP regional café groups webpage.

Upcoming conferences and events

Coventry & Warwickshire Perinatal Mental Health Awareness Walk, Sunday 11th June
5km walk at Ryton Pools Country Park. Organised by By Your Side. More information here.

Perinatal Mental Health Services: Improving access and support, Friday 7th July
Virtual conference focusing on improving perinatal mental health services as well as access and support during and beyond Covid-19. Book tickets here.

Improving Safety in Maternity Services, Thursday 13th July

Online conference focussing on a multidisciplinary approach to improving safety in maternity services following the Ockenden Review. Book tickets here.

If you would like to advertise your event here, please get in touch: app@app-network.org.

Richard’s cycling challenge to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis and honour his late wife

At the end of May, Richard Baish and a team of friends will be completing an epic 475 mile bike ride over five days to raise money for APP in memory of his amazing wife Alex who tragically died last year.

The ride will start in Glasgow and head all the way down to Richard’s hometown of Witney in Oxfordshire, finishing on the 2nd June.

Richard’s challenge aims to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis, the severe postnatal mental illness that claimed the life of his wife Alex to in September.  With a toddler and a newborn baby to look after, as well as coping with the immense shock and grief of losing his partner, Richard gave himself a huge target of raising £50,000 for APP.

As he and his family had never heard of postpartum psychosis before they were affected by it, his aim is to ensure healthcare professionals and parents-to-be are made aware of the signs, symptoms and risks of the illness, in the hope that no other families will have to go through what they have.

So far Richard has raised an incredible £36,000 and his total is still going up every day. For our small charity, this is a huge amount of money, which will make such a difference to the work we can do to raise awareness, support families and save lives. We have already used some of the funds raised to begin an antenatal education campaign, including producing a toolkit for antenatal educators; and an online conference aimed at healthcare professionals is planned for the autumn.

Richard says:

I found out the hard way just how destructive PP can be. My advice for anyone who’s going through birth, either as a mum, dad, friend or family member, is to keep talking: whether it’s sharing good feelings or bad with each other or with professionals. Talking has helped me so much in my grieving process and it can help prevent the worst-case scenario. Postpartum psychosis is an awful illness but a treatable one. APP has supported me immensely in the last few months, and I know they share my passion to help save as many lives as possible through awareness of what to do and where to go for help.

Through his fundraising, Richard has also raised an enormous amount of awareness - using interviews, press and social media to reach people who would have never heard of postpartum psychosis otherwise. He brings kindness, honesty, passion, thoughtfulness and sensitivity to each interaction. It's difficult overstate the impact his fundraising has already had - tens of thousands of people have seen his campaign video (below), and nearly 1,500 individuals have given sponsorship, most of them previously unknown to him having been moved to support Richard after seeing a tweet or a Facebook post.

We can't imagine a better way to remember Alex and honour her memory. We're so grateful to Richard for the incredible, dedicated work he is doing for Action on Postpartum Psychosis, during the most difficult period of his life.

His story is truly inspirational but it can be a difficult one to read, so please take care visiting his fundraising page or watching the video below.

You can add your support to his campaign here: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richardbaish

💜  If you have been affected by Richard's story, need any support, or want to meet others affected by postpartum psychosis, we're here for you. Find out more at www.app-network.org/get-help/peer-support-for-postpartum-psychosis/ or email us: app@app-network.org.

Richard has already done so much to raise awareness of PP with coverage on BBC Radio Oxford and in the Daily Record as well as via his social media feeds. You can follow his updates on Twitter and Instagram.  If you're a journalist interested in covering Richard's incredible story, please contact media@app-network.org

Double your donation

We're thrilled to be part of The Big Give's Kind2Mind campaign this Mental Health Awareness Week.

This means every single donation we receive on our Big Give campaign page between 12noon on Monday 15th May and 12noon on Monday 22nd May will be DOUBLED, at no additional cost to our donors.

Every donation we receive will have DOUBLE the impact – if you donate £5, Action on Postpartum Psychosis will receive £10, if you donate £25, we'll receive £50, and so on.

We have a target of £5,000 for the week which could help us significantly increase our offer of help and support for dads and co-parents in families affected by postpartum psychosis - a treatable medical emergency that affects 1-2 in every 1,000 new mums.

Will you donate today and get your donation doubled?

For many families, postpartum psychosis comes as a shock. Many dads and co-parents have never heard of this illness before, and the symptoms can be distressing.

At a time in their life when they were expecting to have the joy of a new baby, it can feel as if life has been turned completely upside down.

Simon and the APP team (pictured top) are here to help and support dads and co-parents through this traumatic experience.

Simon says:

Partner support is so vitally important, when your life feels like it's being torn apart and you may be feeling so isolated, even if you have family around you, to find the wealth of information APP provide and to be able to talk with other partners who have lived experience, that understand what it's like, "who get it", can provide the hope that things will get better. We see partners from every stage of the postpartum psychosis journey, be that in crisis, right through recovery and out of the other side. It doesn't matter when they come to APP.

'It’s hard for partners – and men generally – to admit there’s a problem that they just can’t fix themselves... Peer support makes you know you’re not alone.'

Alex - peer support beneficiary (pictured above left)

'I’ve been put in touch with another female couple and we’ve been in contact regularly, texting back and forth, and it’s been a lifeline. It’s just so good to have someone you can actually relate to.'

Nicola - peer support beneficiary (pictured above right)

Peer support really does make a difference. It can be life changing, and life saving.  A dad we supported told us:

"I don't think I would have been here if it wasn't for finding APP".

Donate today to have your gift doubled and help us support even more families affected by postpartum psychosis.

Look out for our posts on our social media pages - please share so we can reach more people.

Thank you for helping to support our campaign so we can be there for even more families.

APP April Newsletter - Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week special

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (MMHAW) runs from Monday 1st to Sunday 7th May. We would love to get as many people involved as possible.

We want more people talking about postpartum psychosis (PP) - the signs and symptoms to look for, and what’s needed to support recovery. We want to ensure that no-one affected by PP feels alone and everyone knows where they can turn to for help and support. We’ll be sharing personal stories, signposting to support, information and advice, and raising awareness of PP.

In addition to #MaternalMentalHealthAwarenessWeek, organised by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, there will be a focused World Maternal Mental Health Day (Wed 3rd) and Pregnancy & Postpartum Psychosis #PPPAwareness Day (Fri 5th). The theme for the full week is 'Together In A Changing World'.

For updates follow @ActionOnPP on FacebookInstagramTwitter and LinkedIn. Read on for details of the special events we’ve organised in support of the week.

Events for Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

Creative Writing - A Lived Experience Workshop with Laura Dockrill, Monday 1st May 12.30 – 1.30pm

If you have personal experience of PP, join this free and fun lunchtime creative writing workshop on zoom with Author and APP Ambassador, Laura Dockrill. In a warm, gentle, no-pressure environment, Laura will explore writing for you and your wellbeing. All you need is something to write with and on.

Join APP’s network and book your place here.

The session is free – donations are welcome.

If you have experience of postpartum psychosis, I HIGHLY recommend joining this soul nourishing session. Whether you are a poet, writer, or have never written a jot before, Laura will nurture your creative side in a low stress, fun environment. Dr Jess Heron

Free webinar: 'Postpartum Psychosis: From research to recovery' – Thursday 4th May 12-1pm

Join APP and the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) to hear about the latest postpartum psychosis research and find out how you can help.

You’ll hear from researchers and those with Lived Experience, including: Director of the National Centre for Mental Health Cardiff, Professor Ian Jones; APP Chief Executive, Dr Jess Heron (University of Birmingham); Dr Sally Wilson (APP Research & Training Coordinator); and Laura Dockrill (APP Ambassador) as well as from researchers from: the National Centre for Mental Health; University of East Anglia; and University of Birmingham’s Institute of Mental Health about a range of new studies.

Find out more and book here.

Pregnancy and Postpartum Psychosis Awareness Day – Friday 5th May

The importance of Peer Support for PP

Join APP and US charities Cherished Mom and Postpartum Support International for one of three global virtual meet-ups for women with experience of PP as part of Pregnancy & Postpartum Psychosis Awareness Day 2023 (1am, 10.30am and 5pm BST).

The APP peer support team will co-facilitate the 10.30am and 5pm sessions (UK time).

If you would like to meet others and find out more about PP around the world, book your free place on Eventbrite here.

New postpartum psychosis toolkit for antenatal educators

During Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we will launch a free online toolkit to support midwives and antenatal educators.

The toolkit will help antenatal educators deliver brief, but potentially life-saving, information about postpartum psychosis (PP) to parents-to-be in antenatal classes.

We’ve worked with families affected by PP and antenatal education providers to produce the toolkit.

A YouGov Survey in 2021 found that only 6% of expectant parents were given information about PP at their antenatal classes, but a survey carried out by APP in 2022 found that 88% of antenatal providers felt it should be included.

A big thank you everyone who has been involved so far. Special thanks go to Richard Baish, his friends and family for supporting the development of this toolkit.

Follow @ActionOnPP across social media channels to hear when the toolkit is launched and please help us share the news.

During the week, you can listen to APP’s Dr Sally Wilson and Naomi Gilbert talking to PMHP’s Eve Canavan about the research behind the campaign and read Zebi's blog in collaboration with pregnancy charity, Tommy’s showing the importance of hearing about PP before it happens.

Signs and Symptoms posters available

Our Signs and Symptoms graphic has been updated and is now also available as an A4 printed or downloadable poster.

If you could display one in your maternity hospital, GP surgery, mother and baby group, Mother and Baby Unit, or perinatal mental health clinic, please get in touch.

We can send you up to 10 posters free but if you feel you could support us to cover the cost of postage you can donate here.

Northern Ireland (NI) Mother and Baby Unit campaign

We’re continuing to work with NI charity Maternal Advocacy and Support and 40 other organisations to campaign for a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) in Northern Ireland.

Watch the video of our petition hand in here.

The government scoping report into a NI MBU due out in March has been delayed until the end of May. We look forward to reviewing plans, timeframes and interim solutions for families with PP in NI whilst we await a NI MBU.

If you’re in NI, join our peer support group to meet others, give and receive peer support, and help with campaigning. You could also join #TeamAPP at the Hillsborough Castle & Gardens Running Festival on 30th July this year. Email fundraising@app-network.org for more info or to reserve your place.

APP café groups during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

Our regional peer support café groups for women and families affected by PP meet monthly and are a mixture of virtual sessions and face to face meet-ups. You can attend whether you are newly recovering or recovered many years ago. They are a social place to chat, support each other, as well as to share ideas about improving the future for others affected by PP.

Our Black Country and Wales café groups are meeting in Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. If you are interested in joining these or any of the other APP café groups – in Sussex & Hampshire, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, North East, Lancashire & Cumbria, and London - please fill out this form or email app@app-network.org. New members are always welcome.

We also run a virtual peer group for dads and co-parents on the third Wednesday of every month for people who have supported a partner through PP. The next meeting is on 17th May. Our grandparents group meets approximately six times a year, with the next meeting on 11th May. If you would like to be on the mailing list for either of these groups, please email app@app-network.org.

You can find the dates of the next meet ups for all our café groups here.

Health Professional Training

A new date for APP online Health Professional training in postpartum psychosis has been released.

Book for the 15th November course here.

Onsite training days can also be commissioned by individual NHS Trusts or other workplaces for their teams. To find out more, get in touch: training@app-network.org

Plan your Big Bake for APP

Could you organise a Big Bake this May and help raise funds for APP?

Host an informal afternoon tea, have a coffee break together or organise a bake-off competition with friends, family or colleagues. It’s a lovely way to start a conversation about mental health and PP and raise funds for APP at the same time.

If you pay it in between 15th-22nd May using the following link, the amount you raise will be DOUBLED with match funding from The Big Give Kind²Mind 2023 campaign.

For more info and a Big Bake fundraising pack, email fundraising@app-network.org

Miles for Mums and Babies

A huge thank you to everyone who has signed up to be part of our Miles for Mums and Babies challenge this year – we’ve got more people than ever before involved –  individuals and teams all over the UK running, walking, swimming, cycling and toddling hundreds of miles to raise awareness and funds.

Well done to Rob Rowe (pictures above, left hand side) and Natalie Varley (pictures above, right hand side) who have both completed marathons for APP this month - Rob running in Brighton and Natalie in Manchester - between them they raised over £3,000 for APP! An amazing achievement - both were first time marathon runners!

We’ll be posting a round-up of everyone taking part in Miles for Mums and Babies soon so keep an eye on our social media pages and add your support if you can – and it’s definitely not too late to join in if you’d like to – email fundraising@app-network.org.

The Big Give

We’re delighted to have been successful again in applying for match funding from the Big Give – this means all donations we receive via our Big Give Kind²Mind 2023 campaign page between 12pm on the 15th May and 12pm on 22nd May will be DOUBLED! We’ll send another reminder nearer the time but do share our social media posts if you spot them – this year our campaign is focused on support for dads and co-parents.

Thank you so much to everyone who is fundraising for APP at the moment – we are so grateful to all of you and your supporters. Every donation makes a real difference.

Dates for your diary

APP Black Country face to face café group meet up at Walsall Arboretum, Wednesday 3rd May: APP regional café groups webpage

World Maternal Mental Health Day, Wednesday 3rd May: www.wmmhday.postpartum.net

APP Wales virtual café group meet up, Thursday 4th May: APP regional café groups webpage

International Day Of The Midwife, Friday 5th May: www.internationalmidwives.org/icm-events/international-day-of-the-midwife-2023.html

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria virtual café group meet up, Monday 8th May: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Lancaster, Wednesday 10th May: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Grandparents virtual café group meet up, Thursday 11th May: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackpool, Friday 12th May: APP regional café groups webpage

Mental Health Awareness Week, 15th-21st May: www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/mental-health-awareness-week

The Big Give match funding campaign, 15th-22nd May: Big Give Kind²Mind 2023

APP Dads and co-parents virtual café group meet up, Wednesday 17th May: APP regional café groups webpage

APP London virtual café group meet up, Thursday 18th May: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Preston, Friday 19th May: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Northern Ireland virtual café group meet up, Monday 22nd May: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackburn, Tuesday 23rd May: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Sussex and Hampshire virtual café group meet up, Wednesday 24th May: APP regional café groups webpage

Volunteers' Week, 1st-7th June: www.volunteersweek.org

APP Sussex and Hampshire virtual café group meet up, Thursday 8th June: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackpool, Friday 9th June: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria virtual café group meet up, Monday 12th June: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Lancaster, Wednesday 14th June: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Preston, Friday 16th June: APP regional café groups webpage

Nicola’s story: "I had to leave my dream job to look after our baby."

My partner, Arina, was only in the MBU for a couple of months when she was discharged. It wasn’t that she was well enough to come home, it was because they said she wasn’t making any progress. Our baby had already been discharged, and I had taken time off work to be a full-time parent. But then when Arina came home as well, I realised that there was no more support available to us and I had to leave my job as an ambulance care assistant – something I had worked so hard for.

It was December when Arina gave birth to our daughter. I hadn’t realised that there was anything wrong at first. Our baby cried a lot, and we were told she had reflux so Arina was naturally anxious and, because I’ve got three older children, I just put it down to it being early days.

Arina had struggled with mental health problems prior to giving birth, and she had been diagnosed with BPD (borderline personality disorder) which is a serious mental health issue that can cause overwhelming, distressing and changeable emotions.

When I was due to return to work after our baby daughter was born, Arina mentioned that she was feeling really anxious. It was New Year’s Day and, because I was expected in work on the 2nd, I contacted Arina’s sister who lived a couple of hours’ drive away to ask if she’d come and stay, which she did. However, she contacted me at work saying she was concerned about Arina who was really struggling and distressed, and she suggested she could take the baby for a couple of nights so that we could get Arina some help.

I reluctantly agreed, and we contacted the crisis team, who came out to see Arina but they weren’t very helpful – simply suggesting that she take a bath, have a cup of tea and get some sleep. But the problem was she couldn’t sleep. And I could see that she was incredibly vulnerable.

We were due a visit from our health visitor so I collected our daughter from Arina’s sister and brought her home. I was at work on the day of the visit, but they called me and said I needed to come home otherwise they would need to remove our daughter. They felt that it was unsafe to leave Arina and the baby alone as they suspected Arina had postpartum psychosis. I went straight home as they tried to find an MBU to get the care Arina clearly needed. However, it was a real struggle because the crisis team maintained that she didn’t need help.

Eventually, we managed to get Arina in to see the GP – she was incredibly anxious by this point. The GP agreed that Arina needed help and, the following day, we finally got the call saying that she could be admitted to the MBU.

Because of Covid, I literally had to drop Arina and my daughter at the MBU door, which was heartbreaking. Leaving your partner and daughter, not knowing how they might settle in or where they were going to sleep, was really difficult. I had also developed a really strong bond with our baby so it was difficult being separated from her as well having previously spent 24 hours a day with her.

The MBU was about a 45 minute drive away from our home as well, so I was having to work full time and travel every day for the one hour a day visit, and it was emotionally and physically draining.

After about a month, I was shocked when the MBU suggested our daughter should come home with me. Arina had mentioned that the MBU staff were still carrying out most of our daughter’s care, and they suggested that Arina needed some time on her own. I was worried because I needed to work to bring the money in, and also because I thought Arina should have the opportunity to bond with our daughter.

I arranged time off work, thinking it was just for a few days but, as time went on, nothing was mentioned about any plans for our daughter to return to the MBU. I was taking her back and forth every day to see Arina and then looking after her the rest of the time on my own.

I had been working with the Ambulance Trust and had only just started the job in the October, so I was devastated at having to take so much time off. Eventually, I was told by the MBU that Arina needed to be referred to an adult psychiatric ward for further treatment but that they couldn’t find a bed, so she would need to come home. We were told at that point that we would get some childcare support to enable me to go back to work part time but nothing materialised.

So, after two months in the MBU, Arina was also home, and I left my job and had to claim benefits to keep us going. Arina applied for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) but that was eight months ago and we still haven’t got it so we are relying on basic benefits – other than £5 a week for baby class. We just feel as though we have been left completely on our own.

It’s quite difficult, as a same sex couple, to access support because everything for partners seemed to be targeted at ‘dads’ or ‘fathers’. I couldn’t see anything that felt it might include me. However, during a conversation with an old friend who I discovered had herself been in an MBU, she told me that she’d seen a story on the APP website about a same-sex couple so I had a look straight away and reached out to Ellie from the peer support team.

Since meeting Ellie, I’ve been put in touch with another female couple and we’ve been in contact regularly, texting back and forth, and it’s been a lifeline. It’s just so good to have someone you can actually relate to.

There are still challenges we are facing because of our situation though. For example, because I’m not on the birth certificate I have to adopt our daughter, so being classed as a full-time parent I currently have the responsibility but not the legal rights, so I can’t even open a bank account for her or register her with a nursery. This is really tough because Arina is still struggling with her mental health as well. And, on the flip side, the social workers have told us that, once I adopt my daughter, they will no longer be able to support us at all – so it feels like a lose-lose situation.

The thing that keeps me going, however, is reading the stories of others, and speaking to Ellie and the couple that APP put me in touch with. While everyone’s experience is different and unique, there is always something you can relate to. It makes such a difference knowing that you’re not alone.

 

Ruth’s story: We had to travel from Spain to Scotland during lockdown to access an MBU

We’d been living in Spain for over ten years when I fell pregnant. My husband, Jamie, worked away a lot on an oil rig but we had a good network, had planned for Jamie to be home for a couple of months around the birth and the pregnancy was really straightforward. I felt lucky.

Our son was born in the September, and, when Jamie returned to work in the December, I made a return trip home to Ireland to visit family with our new baby.

While I was in Belfast I started struggling with bad joint pain. I’d had arthritis as a young child but hadn’t had any problems for years so it was a bit of a shock. I ended up in A&E and it made breastfeeding and holding my son really uncomfortable too. I was in so much agony.

When I got back home I got some treatment for the arthritis and everything seemed to settle back down. My baby was sleeping well, Jamie was working in Norway, everything felt like it was going to be fine.

Then, by the middle of February, I suddenly stopped sleeping and began panicking about everything going wrong – thinking that Jamie, might lose his job, worrying that there was something wrong with our son. I made the rash decision to move our son into his own room, and I would spend whole nights just staring at the baby monitor and listening to the buzz of it.

My mum came to stay and she remembers that I was just pacing the flat saying things like our lives are falling apart; there’s something wrong with the baby; he’s not well; he’ll be taken off us and I’ll be put in jail.

I went to the health centre and got an emergency appt with the nurse who prescribed diazepam to calm me down. It was around the time of lockdown so when I needed to go back it was a different nurse that I saw. The second time I was prescribed antidepressants, too.

Jamie was away at the time and I was continually phoning my best friend and cousin because I needed someone to listen. I was convinced there was something wrong with the baby, and I began struggling with breastfeeding and then bottle feeding – getting myself into this vicious cycle of feeling like I couldn’t feed my baby at all.

My friend was concerned and she made an appointment with a psychologist at the nearby clinic. I remember taking my notebook with me because I was writing down pages and pages of numbers and dates relating to my baby and his feeding patterns and routines.

Back at home, I would just lay down on the floor and cry and I was having regular panic attacks. But outside of the home, I was doing all of the right things – trying to feed him, dressing him. It probably all seemed fairly normal on the outside but in the background I was panicking, not sleeping, not eating and obsessing over my baby.

The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital…

Apparently, one morning, around 4 or 5am, I’d left the flat, left the door open, with my baby asleep and my mum sleeping on the sofa. I had no shoes on and I got into my car. I drove along the motorway and parked my car on the hard shoulder and got out. What happened after that was devastating. The only thing I can remember is someone saying quick get her a blanket. Then I remember waking up in a hospital.

I’d walked out in front of a lorry. Luckily, I survived. I had some very deep cuts, some bad injuries and I needed stitches in my head. I had some deep wounds on my foot and scars all over my back.

It does cross my mind from time to time about how the driver is today. It must have been such a huge trauma for him and I truly hope he has he recovered from it.

I was quickly transferred to the psych ward where I was sat outside in a wheel chair, covered in blood. We were waiting hours and hours for the psych team to assess me. They eventually decided to admit me and I was taken into a shared room where my family had to leave me due to lockdown rules.

My family were looking after my son and Jamie, who was working in Mexico at the time, flew back home. Meanwhile I was in the psych ward, unable to shower properly because I couldn’t get my injuries wet, feeling as though I was in a prison, with no furnishings or comfortable surroundings and unbelievably tall walls with barbed wire so nobody could escape.

I don’t feel I received particularly good treatment while I was there. And I remember another girl who was in there suggesting I start to write things down to keep track of the doctors I was speaking to and the meds I was put on. When my sister and Jamie came in to see me I saw a psychiatrist who granted me permission to go home under my husband’s care.

We then went into full lockdown and my husband had to try to look after both me and our son at the same time. I think he has so much strength to have been able to put up with what I now know was absolutely shocking and both terrifying behaviour.

The team of psychiatrists would come to our house twice a week and I had some zoom calls with my psychologist during lockdown. They were trying to find the right combination of meds for me but apparently they weren’t working and they suggested I go back to the psych ward without my baby – and of course no visitors were allowed because of lockdown, so I really didn’t want to go back there.

One of my friends in the UK who worked in health contacted Jamie because she had found my messages really concerning. She had heard about Mother and Baby Units in the UK and Jamie, who’s Scottish, got in touch with APP to find out more and then made contact with an MBU in Glasgow. They said I could be admitted.

Jamie had to drive us all from Spain to Calais and then to a friend’s in Cumbria before reaching Stirling, where he immediately got me an emergency doctor’s appointment. By that point my paranoia and symptoms were so bad the doctor called an ambulance and I was immediately admitted to the MBU with my baby.

Because I’d come from Spain I had to have ten days in isolation, so Jamie went back to work to bring in some money because nobody was allowed to visit me anyway.

I ended up spending five months in the MBU. I was admitted in the May, and discharged in the October.

I remember in the MBU there were quite big rooms and we had our own bathrooms, a nice play area and garden with picnic benches and windmills. They organised things like crafts, cookery and pram walks which I enjoyed, and I remember me and one of the other girls used to make apple crumbles.

Unfortunately, because I still didn’t seem to be improving, I had to have ECT. I was so nervous and I appealed it but Jamie gave permission because he thought it was my only chance of getting better.

The doctor I saw before each ECT session was so lovely, I remember he always reassured me. I never got to know his name and I’ve always wanted to thank him for his kindness. I had 18 ECT treatments in total. The only thing I complained about was having a sore head, but apparently that’s quite common.

When my son was due to turn one, however, the MBU had to plan my discharge, because they were only funded to look after mums with babies less than a year old. I started going to my in-laws’ house on weekends and eventually was recovered enough to have a full discharge. However, I caught Covid, so we had to isolate in an Air BnB for a while which was really tough. Eventually, we made it back to Spain in a far better position than we had been when we left.

I’m still on medication today, but just a low dose of antidepressants. I’ve stopped the antipsychotics and things are slowly getting back to some kind of normality.

My son started going to nursery and he’s picking up both Spanish and English, which makes me so proud. And I went back to work in the September of 2021, so I had time to get back into normal life, start exercising again and focusing on me.

Looking back, it was a very scary and intense period, especially with it all happening during lockdown. But now Jamie and I are out the other side, we are both really keen to raise awareness, because nobody in my family had even heard of PP before I was diagnosed.

I’ve trained to be a peer supporter with APP, so I can share my experience and hope with other families who are going through what we did. I know that when Jamie first spoke with APP’s peer support lead, Ellie, when I was really ill, it made such a difference so I hope that we can now pass on that support. Just knowing that someone else has been where you are and come out the other side makes all the difference.

 

Anneka’s story: "The mother and baby unit was incredible, I owe my life to them".

In March 2021 I gave birth to a perfect little boy called Ralph and my family was complete.

I had a very easy pregnancy and loved every minute of it, I couldn’t wait to be a Mum.  After a short stay in hospital because Ralph had an infection, it was time to come home. Looking back I wasn’t right from the moment I got home but we just thought it was an extended set of the ‘baby blues’ - as did the midwife who came to see me.

Shortly after being home I was terrified someone was going to take my baby from me, that the house had to be tidy and if it wasn’t something really bad was going to happen.
I couldn’t remember anything and had to carry a notepad with me at all times to write down everything I had to do or had already done, from Ralph’s feeds to nappy changes.

The final straw for my husband and family to intervene was when I started to open presents and cards and couldn’t remember who anybody was.

My husband, Laurence, decided I needed medical attention ASAP but there was no chance I was going back into hospital and leaving Ralph. He told me I had a water infection and just needed to go in for some antibiotics so I agreed. Getting me into the hospital was very difficult as, by this time, I couldn’t remember anything about Covid and didn’t understand why I needed to wear a mask. I was taken straight to A&E where I was asked a series of questions which I couldn’t answer, including which day it was and who the prime minister was. By this point I had started to hallucinate and thought that every doctor was against me. The police were nearby with another patient and seeing them made me think that they were going to section me.

I ended up staying in hospital for a few days having all sorts of tests to rule out anything medically wrong with me before the psychiatric team would get involved. By this point my husband had found out about postpartum psychosis and that the best place for me would be a mother and baby unit.

By now I was very unwell and believed that I, and the midwife looking after me, had been arrested for committing a terrorist attack on the hospital. Every nurse or doctor that came to see me I thought was a member of my family or friends. Laurence was bringing in Ralph everyday so we could continue to bond, but by this point I thought Ralph had died so this became quite stressful. I believed my room was under surveillance and armed police were outside my room. When my Mum came to see me I thought our meeting was being broadcast on national TV. It all seemed so real.

The day before my 30th birthday I was transferred by ambulance to a mother and baby unit.

The first few days in the mother and baby unit I didn’t speak, I spent my 30th birthday mainly in my room believing I was still under arrest and my room was a prison cell. By this point the radio had started speaking to me and I couldn’t watch the TV because I believed that it was still covering the terrorist attack I’d committed. The staff were incredibly patient and understanding.

I was extremely lucky to get a place at a mother and baby unit close to home and my husband visited us every day. I remember so clearly asking him when we first arrived “How long will I be here?” to which he replied “it normally takes 6-8 weeks for people to recover.”
3 months, a relapse and being put under section later we finally returned home.

The mother and baby unit was incredible, I owe my life to them.

Without them who knows what would have happened. Every member of staff helped myself and Ralph bond through my recovery and supported my whole family. I also made some friends for life in the other mums that I speak to most days now. We were thrown together and have all been through such an experience together, I will be forever grateful for them.

I remain on medication for my diagnoses and am currently being supported by the wonderful Perinatal Mental Health team and the Early Intervention for Psychosis team who I see every other week.

Postpartum psychosis is scary and can affect anyone, including me who had no mental health problems in the past. My advice for anyone experiencing it now is, you will get better, take the support and treatment given to you. It’s helped me to put life into perspective and know what’s important. I’m not angry it happened to me, it’s part of who I am and now I want to give back to all the people who helped me recover.

 

 

 

Zebunisa’s story: "As a psychology graduate I had lots of technical knowledge about mental health – but I still couldn’t see how bad my illness really was".

Having a baby is a significant, wonderful and stressful time of life. But when giving birth coincides with family weddings and various other things that life throws at you, that stress can be amplified tenfold. In the days after I gave birth, I remember feeling vulnerable, exhausted and highly emotional.

So far so normal.

However, by day five things for me and my family were definitely not normal.

I became quite elated but I was also really confused and, I’m told, acting in quite a bizarre way. Running naked around the room was certainly not normal for me, and neither was telling anyone and everyone my personal problems. I was so sleep deprived and was struggling with breastfeeding big time. I sought out breastfeeding support on several occasions and after seeing the breastfeeding support team and speaking with them as if they were my counsellors, they suggested I see the crisis team. They could tell something simply wasn’t right.

However, for some time it was difficult for the people around me to see just how unwell I was. Because I have a masters in forensic psychology, I was regularly articulating all this knowledge and all these psychological terms and, seemingly, demonstrating insight into what was happening to me.

But in reality, I wasn’t just a bit switched on and alert, I was far too switched on. In fact, you could say I was behaving like a mad scientist!

By this point I had racing thoughts and I was hearing and seeing things that weren’t there. I was also talking at a hundred miles an hour, sending hundreds of messages to people and constantly writing and researching. These behaviours were symptoms that I recognised from my study, but, unfortunately, even though I recognised what was happening it didn’t instil in me just how unwell I was.

Conversely, I was elated. I felt as though I was solving some kind of puzzle and having my eyes opened to the experiences that others I had worked with had gone through.

From that point on things became blurry. My husband called the crisis team and I know that they assessed me over a period of five days and told me that I needed to go to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), but I refused to go.

Eid was fast approaching and I was determined to stay at home and host the family for the big day as we had planned. I kept telling everyone that I knew my rights, that I had insight and I was informed enough to make decisions but, even though I had all the technical knowledge, my illness stopped me from seeing just how poorly I had become.

Eventually, they managed to get me admitted to an MBU in Nottingham, so it wasn’t too far from home. When I arrived there I was both confused and elated – I’d worked in these kinds of environments and I became excitable. At one point I tried to deliver a PowerPoint presentation to the doctors (this did not happen but I tried!). I was constantly ‘researching’ but I wasn’t using books or Google – I was using my mind and my racing thoughts and writing everything down, every single day. Imagine writing all day long, that was me!

My moods were all over the place and it was as though everything about my personality was 10x what it normally was. I’m a clean person, but I became obsessed by cleanliness, at one point spending three hours straight in the shower. I also became really angry with my husband when he tried to decorate the room for Eid and I ripped everything back down again. I was constantly having tantrums but my husband kept visiting, he kept supporting me and just being there for me.

I didn’t trust anybody, so when they tried to give me medicine it was a real challenge. I would ask for all the relevant paperwork, requesting printouts and saying I needed to be kept fully informed.

After a while, I remember finding a leaflet in the MBU about postpartum psychosis and when I read up on it I began to recognise that it was what was happening to me. I had been told by health professionals that this was probably my diagnosis but until that point I refused to believe them.

Eventually I started trusting their care and taking the meds, which brought me back to my usual self.

Although I don’t remember all of this, the staff and family have since filled me in on some of the things that happened.

After about three months in the MBU, I left the MBU and received care at home from the perinatal mental health team and my family supporting me along the way. I started to think I was much better. However, after the psychotic symptoms died down, I was hit with depression and anxiety. All of these different mental health problems were affecting me. Before giving birth, I hadn’t experienced any mental health problems at all...

Now I want to help others. I personally found a lot of support and strength through APP’s network and I want to give something back and to let others know that you can recover from PP. You may not feel like you will whilst you are experiencing it but YOU WILL and YOU DO get better.