All posts by Amy Tubb

Spring 2019 campaign e-bulletin published

The Everyone’s Business campaign Spring 2019 e-bulletin is now out, including details about:

  • Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of more than £50m for perinatal and infant mental health
  • London turning the map green
  • NSPCC NI’s new report saying it’s ‘time for action’

Download now

Please circulate far and wide and if you are on Twitter please retweet the e-bulletin from @MMHAlliance using #everyonesbusiness.

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Charlotte’s story

I feel the fear of having your baby taken away is a real worry for new mothers with mental health problems.

Charlotte’s story (Cardiff)

Following the birth of my son in 2012 I felt very unwell mentally, However, because Wales’ only mother and baby unit (MBU) in Cardiff was closed, I faced being admitted to an adult psychiatric ward without my baby. At that point, I completely broke down and said I was going nowhere without my child.

Hallucinations and paranoia

Following this event, I started to be treated at home. Sadly, things took a turn for the worse and I began to experience hallucinations and paranoia. At one point, I was listening to a news broadcast on the radio and heard a voice say, “Charlotte, I’m talking to you. Get them men out of your house. They’re going to hurt you and your baby.”

I got up, ran to the kitchen and started to shout at my husband, saying that I wanted him out of the house because he was going to hurt me and my baby. Richard told me that the radio wasn’t even on. That it was unplugged. It was frightening stuff. Horrible.

Treated for 18 months

Eventually I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, and went on to be treated for it at home for one and a half years. If the MBU in Cardiff had still been open, it’s possible my condition could have been treated in around 12 weeks.

This is why I’m determined to get the unit reopened. Women need it. They should never have to face the possibility of being parted from their children to get the support they need. The fear of having your baby taken away is a real worry for new mothers with mental health problems, so a lot of them suffer in silence which leads to problems becoming more severe.

 

First Minister announces more than £50m funding boost for perinatal and infant mental health services

On 6th March, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Minister for Mental Health, Clare Haughey, visited the mother and baby unit (MBU) at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, Scotland, where they announced that more than £50m is to be spent on improving access to perinatal mental health (PMH) services.

Following the funding announcement, the National Managed Clinical Network (MCN) for PMH launched their needs assessment report, funded by the Scottish Government, and Women and Families Maternal Mental Health Pledge, which was developed in partnership with Maternal Mental Health Scotland Change Agents.

The report recommends:

  • A national approach to ensure all women, even in low birth rate areas, have equitable access to specialist services
  • Education for all staff working with women during pregnancy and the postnatal period, in-line with the ground-breaking Curricular Framework for Perinatal Mental Health
  • Increased capacity to ensure every woman can get the help she needs when she needs it
  • Promotion of the role of peer support within specialist teams
  • Involvement of women and families with lived experience in service development, with appropriate support.

Rosey Adams, Everyone’s Business Scotland Coordinator and Champion, said:

“I had my children in the Western Isles, with very little support for my mental health. Seeing a focus on improving specialist and peer support services in low birth areas is fantastic!”

As the MCN’s mapping and gapping work showed, many women in Scotland are currently unable to access vital specialist services. For example, the Network found that the Leverndale MBU had 44 patients who could not be immediately admitted in 2018.

Clare Thompson, Everyone’s Business Scotland Coordinator and Champion, comments,

“I received excellent care from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, but I know there are women across Scotland who are not supported well enough by specialist services, such as inpatient and community care.”

Speaking to the BBC, Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Perinatal mental health affects around about 1 in 5 women, 11,000 women a year in Scotland. It’s a really important priority area so that we can build upon the fantastic work that’s done in the NHS already but make sure we’re improving community services, peer services and specialist support for those with the most severe illness.”

The MMHA looks forward to seeing how the boost in funding, together with the MCN’s recommendations, will translate into equitable and sustainable specialist services for women and families across Scotland.

We would like to congratulate our Scottish members, coordinators and champions for working tirelessly to see these developments happen.

Read about the funding announcement from the Scottish Government, and the reactions from MMHA members, Maternal Mental Health Scotland and Aberlour.

Hazel’s story

Everyone throughout the UK should have access to the services they need, no matter what their postcode is.

Hazel’s story (Falkirk)

Following the birth of my second baby, I experienced postnatal depression. But in the Fife area, where I was living at the time, there were no services to support me. After I asked my GP for help, I was given anti-depressants and sent away. The effect of this was that my attachment to my son suffered and I struggled with mental health problems for the next six years.

When I had my third child, everything was different. As I was now living in the Forth Valley, and was registered as high risk, I was supported by a great health visitor and NHS Forth Valley’s perinatal mental health team, and I could easily access Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service.

A different experience

Aberlour basically changed my life. I built up a great relationship with a befriender, who I trusted 100%. She helped to boost my confidence as a parent, showed me it was okay to talk about my worries, and provided me with lots of practical mental health tips. I also found talking through things with the perinatal mental health team a huge help, and they provided me with coping strategies.

Having access to these wonderful services means my mental health has improved a lot. I now have a great attachment to my children, and life, in general, is not as much of a struggle as it was.

Equal access for all

I do know, though, that I only got the care and support I needed because I’d moved to the Forth Valley – a situation that isn’t right. I think everyone throughout the UK should have access to the services they need, no matter what their postcode is.

Much more must be done to make perinatal mental health teams available in people’s local areas. Maternity staff, GPs, health visitors and nurses all need to be educated more about perinatal mental health, the signs to look out for, and who they should refer women and their families to. These steps would change so many lives.

 

Clare’s story

I couldn’t sleep, even when the baby slept, and during my daughter’s ninth week of life I didn’t sleep for three nights in a row. At this point, my community psychiatric nurse suggested, “A wee stay in the mother and baby unit”.

Clare’s story (Glasgow)

During my pregnancy with my daughter, I felt very little – no excitement, no anticipation, no fear. I was mildly concerned about this, so I mentioned it to my midwife, who referred me to my local perinatal mental health service. There, a community psychiatric nurse (CPN) helped me understand that I didn’t have to be excited but made it clear that support would be available after the birth, if I needed it.

I felt no peace

My labour was long, and eventually I had an emergency caesarean. This experience, coupled with the total shock of being responsible for this little human, meant I quickly became very anxious and hypervigilant. As a result, I couldn’t sleep, even when the baby slept, and during my daughter’s ninth week of life I didn’t sleep for three nights in a row. At this point, my CPN suggested, “A wee stay in the mother and baby unit”.

At the unit, I lived from hour-to-hour, taking medicine, doing baby massage, going for walks and talking to the nurses about the journey I was on. I also had visits home, but I found these terrifying. Although I didn’t want to be in the unit, I didn’t want to be home too. I didn’t want to be anywhere. I felt peace nowhere.

Fabulous, ongoing support

After five weeks, I finally did go home, which was followed by a year of care from the community team at the perinatal mental health service. This involved weekly visits from a CPN, who offered me lots of reassurance and talked about what I wanted to talk about. All of these things allowed me to build a relationship with my daughter, which is so precious to me now.

Today, six years on, I’m extremely thankful for the fabulous care I received from the perinatal mental health team at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. My positive experience is something I’d like to use to help other women and families because across Scotland there is a huge disparity in perinatal mental health services. I hope that the promised funding for perinatal and infant mental health services in Scotland will make a big difference to women and families.