All posts by Anna France-Williams

International Fathers’ Mental Health Day

Today, June 18th, is International Fathers’ Mental Health Day, raising awareness globally about the need to get better support for dads.

Around 10% of fathers can experience mental health problems in the first year following the birth of their child. The international campaign is being led from the UK by Dr Andrew Mayers (a mental health campaigner and educator at Bournemouth University) and Mark Williams (a Bridgend dad who developed mental health problems after his wife experienced birth trauma, but is now a global campaigner for parents). They are working with partners in the USA and Australia.

Mark co-founded International Fathers’ Mental Health Day in 2016 with Dr Daniel Singley (a psychologist based in San Diego, California). Since then, the event has grown each year. Mark said, “We need to think family when it comes to perinatal metal mental and remember that if dad is the only one struggling that will impact on the whole family if unsupported.”

Throughout the day, there will be a series of blogs, stories, press releases and resources shared by charities, support groups, health professionals, and families who have experienced the impact of poor mental health in fathers. Key events include a Facebook Live session at 3pm, hosted by Dr Mayers from Bournemouth University via the International Fathers’ Mental Health Day Facebook page. There will use be a live Twitter chat at 19.00 (via #DadsMHDay).

Dr Mayers said “At the very least, we hope to raise awareness about fathers’ mental health and I really hope that we can encourage more men to come forward to seek help. The next challenge will be to ensure that we have the services and support networks to meet that demand.”


For more information, please contact:


@DrAndyMayers @markwilliamsFMH

New mums face gaps in vital specialist mental health services in Wales

Thousands of new mums in Wales who need treatment for mental health problems during pregnancy or following birth are facing different levels of specialist care based on where they live according to new research from NSPCC Cymru/Wales, Mind Cymru the National Centre for Mental Health and the Mental Health Foundation.

Continue reading New mums face gaps in vital specialist mental health services in Wales

Briefing paper launched on perinatal mental health

The Everyone’s Business Campaign has worked with the Centre for Mental Health and the Mental Health Challenge to produce a briefing paper on perinatal mental health.

The Mental Health Challenge was set by seven mental health charities working together to improve mental health across England and encouraging local authorities to take a proactive approach to tackling mental health.

Councillors across the country have signed up to become Mental Health  Member Champions, leading the way in tackling mental health inequalities in their area. This briefing is designed to help them in their work

In the briefing we have summarised the evidence and explained what local authorities can do to champion perinatal mental health.

Download the briefing paper.


MMHA welcomes announcement on specialist perinatal mental health teams across England

NHS England has just announced funding for a second wave of much needed specialist perinatal (pregnancy and postnatal) mental health community services. This follows the highly successful first wave of funding for 20 NHS areas in December 2016.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance has been impressed to see the positive impact that the first wave of funding had on the rapid development of new services. These have brought real improvements in high quality specialised care for mums and babies in many parts of England*. Based on that experience, this second wave of funding looks set to give every mother and baby who needs it access to specialist perinatal mental health services that meet national quality standards, wherever they live in England. The Government pledged the necessary funding in 2014, and NHS England has delivered the services, the trained workforce, and the expert support to make this happen.

Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance said: “In over 30 years working for the NHS I have never seen any national programme produce such a rapid, effective and widespread transformation in services. These new, top quality services have led directly to life saving improvements in care for women and babies that will hugely reduce immediate and long term suffering. The new developments announced today in England look set to eliminate a long-standing and serious postcode lottery, and will undoubtably make England the world leader in mental health care for mothers and babies.”

Of course, as a campaigning Alliance we want to ensure these services are permanent, and that even more progress is made, to ensure that all mothers and babies have access to the full range of mental health care care they need. We now call for:

  • All CCGs in England to be ready to take over long term commissioning of these specialist perinatal mental health services in line with national quality standards, using the permanent funding they will be given for this purpose. 
  • Northern Ireland and Scotland governments to put in place plans and resources (as in England and Wales) to ensure women and families across all parts of the UK can access specialist perinatal mental health services wherever and whenever they need them. 
  •  The Welsh Government to enhance funding to perinatal mental health services to allow them to deliver care that meets national standards to mothers and babies throughout Wales.

*Please check out our maps which show where specialist services and gaps currently exist across the UK, and see details of our campaign to ‘Turn the Map Green’




Support For All: Why maternal mental health matters

This week (April 30 – 6 May) is the second annual UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, coordinated by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK. More than one in ten women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year of their baby’s life. Untreated, perinatal mental illness is one of the leading causes of death for women during pregnancy and the first year after birth.

The members of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance are committed to working together to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all women and their children in pregnancy and the first postnatal year. We want to ensure that care is provided across the pathway for women and their families.

Together with Comic Relief, we recently commissioned Mind and the McPin Foundation to develop a set of principles to help voluntary and community sector organisations ensure that their peer support programmes for mums with maternal mental health difficulties are safe and effective.

Our Campaign, Everyone’s Business, focuses on ensuring that women and families across the UK get access to specialist perinatal mental health services that meet national standards. Our recently launched new maps show where there are gaps in service provision. We want to turn the map green!

Our Mums and Babies In Mind project supports local leaders in four areas of England (Blackpool, Southend, Haringey and Gloucestershire) to improve care and quality of life for mums with mental health problems during pregnancy and the first year of life, and their babies. We capture and share the work we do to inform and inspire those who commission and provide services across the UK.

This week you can join the conversation about maternal mental health on social media using the hashtag #maternalMHmatters. Find out what is happening each day on our website or by following @PMHPUK on Twitter or joining the Facebook group.

Maternal mental health is everyone’s business.

UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week: Support For All

Last year, the first ever UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week took place, led by our member organisation, the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK. During the week, the second World Maternal Mental Health Day was celebrated on Wednesday 3rd May with countries around the world marking the day with events and campaigning activities.

This year the second UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Week is planned for 30th April to 6th May 2018.

The theme is ‘Support For All’ with a focus on enabling all families affected by perinatal mental illness to access the information and help they require for recovery. Throughout the week, the hashtag #maternalmhmatters will be used on social media.

The third World Maternal Mental Health Day will take place on Wednesday 2nd May with details on how to get involved here.

Continue reading UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week: Support For All

Women in a quarter of the UK still can’t access vital maternal mental health services

PRESS RELEASE – Thursday 19th April 2018

New maps launched today by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s Everyone’s Business Campaign show that pregnant women and new mums in a quarter of the UK still cannot access lifesaving specialist perinatal mental health services, which meet national guidelines.[1]

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance welcomes the encouraging signs of progress seen in some parts of the UK but raises the alarm: there is not progress for all parts of the country at the same rate, meaning right now, women and families still face a postcode lottery.

Continue reading Women in a quarter of the UK still can’t access vital maternal mental health services

Kirsten’s story

I believe every mother is entitled to receive the level of support I received during my second pregnancy.

Kirsten’s story (Peterborough)

The symptoms I showed during the pregnancy of my first child included OCD, general anxiety and low mood. I spoke to 11 different professionals before I started to receive help. This left me feeling exhausted, and I couldn’t understand why I had to tell my story so many times, and why I was the one trying to organise and get help.

Life-changing care

When my baby was a week old I finally met a perinatal mental health nurse. Straightaway everything began to change for the better. And when I became pregnant with my second child, I had an amazing support experience.

I was referred to the perinatal mental health team at my first midwife appointment. The perinatal mental health nurse who began supporting me was the same one from my first pregnancy, so she understood the problems I was facing. She also arranged for me to have a specialist midwife, who worked closely with the perinatal nurse to coordinate my care.

The nurse also arranged for me to see a psychiatrist to do a medication check, and I worked with a psychologist for nine months. Overall, the care was seamless and they gave me the best help, support and advice.

Need equal access

Because of my experiences, I know how having access to the right services can be life changing for the whole family. I believe every mother is entitled to receive the level of support I received during my second pregnancy. There needs to be more awareness and understanding of the severity of the issue, and CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] and service commissioners need to recognise the role they can play in improving the situation.




Kathryn’s story

It was through working with the MBU’s child psychologist that I finally started to see my son as a little person and a future where everything was going to be okay.

My pregnancy sailed by in a buzz of baby shopping, scans and antenatal classes. All this changed less than 24 hours after our son was born. We had a very long and difficult labour, followed by a petrifying emergency C-section. We were then placed in the High Dependency Unit, but a few hours later my husband was sent home in the middle of the night. This is when I had my first psychotic episode.

A cruel nightmare

In a medical sense, on that first night, I presented with catatonia. The midwives couldn’t rouse me and I was unresponsive. At first, the doctors thought I’d had a massive stroke. In my head, I had no idea who I was, where I was, or what was happening to me. I did not know whether I had had a baby, a husband, a family, or if this was all some cruel nightmare. I was convinced that I was about to die, that my heart was about to stop, my belly was going to explode.

After that first psychotic episode, my family and I managed to convince the hospital team that it was a one-off event, and that with a lot of family support we could manage better at home. Sadly, we were proven wrong. After just one very stressful and sleepless night, we went to the hospital’s A&E department and begged to see the kindly psychiatrist who had seen me earlier in the week. Thankfully, he swung into action and arranged a bed at our ‘localish’ Mother and Baby Unit [MBU].

Building confidence

At the MBU, things did get worse before they got better. But with the right sedatives and antipsychotics, and lots and lots of rest, I gradually improved. The MBU staff were also incredibly patient and supportive, and it was through working with the unit’s child psychologist that I finally started to see my son as a little person and a future where everything was going to be okay.

Eventually, after many weeks of confidence building in the unit I became well enough to be discharged home. Since then, life has got better and better. I’ve learned how to mother and love my son, and he has become the centre and light of my life.


Laura’s story

I shudder to think how close we came to a very different outcome.

Laura’s story

When I fell pregnant, I had pre-existing mental health difficulties and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I was known to be high risk for postnatal ill health, but I received little support and few preventative measures were put in place. It seemed that the community mental health team and the midwifery team each assumed it was the other’s responsibility.

My son’s birth was extremely traumatic; it left me physically unwell and I completely shut down emotionally and mentally. About a month later, I started to experience flashbacks, violent intrusive thoughts and suicidal impulses. I felt out of control and terrified.

No one understood

I had no idea what was wrong with me, and as there was no specialist perinatal mental health care where I lived at the time, the healthcare professionals I saw were ill-equipped to recognise what was happening or the danger I was in as I became increasingly determined to take my own life.

After presenting at A&E, and following a lengthy and complex referral process, I was admitted to a psychiatric Mother and Baby Unit. I shudder to think how close we came to a very different outcome.

Trauma-informed care

Having had horrendous previous experiences of inpatient wards, I was apprehensive about the unit, but equally I was thankful to be in a safe place and with my baby. The care we received was excellent, and it was there that I was diagnosed with complex PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder].

This was life-changing for me, as it was the first time that the role of childhood trauma, both in my ongoing difficulties and in my response to the birth, was acknowledged and understood. The perinatal period presents a unique opportunity to break cycles of intergenerational trauma, to radically improve parents’ lives, and to give the next generation the best possible start. We need specialist, comprehensive, trauma-informed perinatal care, accessible to every family.