Perinatal mental health: awareness and support
I spend much of my time campaigning for better perinatal mental health services, working with some inspirational alliances (you can read about those on the campaigns page). However, I am also involved with many initiatives aimed at raising awareness about maternal mental illness and providing support. Even if we had comprehensive clinical perinatal mental health services nationally, we would still need community resources, such as peer support. I am linked to a number of maternal mental health groups and charities, and help provide support and information through collaborative social media projects. You can discover more about these ventures on this page.
It is an honour to be associated with a number of excellent not-for-profit support groups and charities across the UK.
Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) is an excellent charity that specifically supports mothers (and families) experiencing postpartum psychosis. On their impressive website, there are support and information services, links to research (and opportunities to participate), and access to a secondary referral (psychiatry) service. One of the most supportive elements is the excellent 'PP Talk Forum'. This is a unique opportunity to seek help, advice and to share experiences. APP also provides links to peer support services (by linking with others who have had similar experiences).
The new Make Birth Better website has been launched by the Birth Trauma Network, of which it is my honour to be a member. Check out the pages on information, resources, and support.
A good friend of mine, Emma Sasaru, runs two sources for awareness and support for birth trauma. Emma Jane uses her lived-experience of birth trauma to provide excellent resources. Unfold Your Wings is a site where mothers (and fathers), who have experienced birth trauma, can share their stories. The site provides information on birth trauma and PTSD. It's a great way to raise awareness, find out information, and have a safe and comfortable place to talk. Emma also provides support for recovery with Beyond Birth Trauma, helping those seeking support to find healing and recovery. The site provides access to support for that recovery. The Birth Trauma Association website also provides some great sources of help.
Local support groups for postnatal depression
At a local level, you may find that there is a maternal mental health support group, whose aim will be to provide help for mothers and families in the community. A good way to locate whether you have such a service can be found on the Netmums website. Most of these are run by other mothers who have experienced these problems too.
Peer support is a valuable tool, and there is probably no better expertise than lived-experience. However, it is important that support groups (especially those run by local charities) have formal safeguarding policies to protect the people being supported, and those doing the supporting. This includes ensuring that leaders are currently well, and have mental health training, supervision, mentoring, crisis response, and child protection training. Here are a few examples of some excellent local support groups:
The Smile Group (Cheshire)
PSS PND (Liverpool)
Cocoon Family Support (London)
In Dorset, we have started a new charity (DorPIP), where we provide therapeutic intervention for parent-infant relationships (which may well have been compromised by perinatal mental ill-health). We also help with supporting families with their mental health. I am a Trustee (and ambassador) for that charity.
All too often, husbands and partners are overlooked when it comes to providing support and information. You can discovery more about my work in that area, and about the services that are available, on the fathers page.
Social media and Internet support services
In this age of accessible internet across a range of devices, online support services are becoming increasingly popular. Many charity groups are using secure and anonymous portals to provide support.
One danger of online support services is knowing what information can be trusted. In light of that Best Beginnings (the pregnancy and infancy charity) are developing a series of films and other materials to support families experiencing perinatal mental health problems. These resources are available through websites and mobile phone apps. All of those resources are sanctioned by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. I helped Best Beginnings develop those resources.
Another key tool for support and advice is through social media. Many charity and support groups have closed or secret Facebook pages, where they can offer support in an environment where may feel safer to talk openly. Twitter chats are also very useful. One of the most popular and influential Twitter chats is #PNDHour, hosted by Rosey Wren via @PNDandMe every Wednesday at 20.00 (UK time). I try to join in most weeks, and occasionally act a guest host. Many people have found the supportive and informative nature of the chats very motivating.