We have had a successful Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week 2019. I just wanted to thank everyone and update followers on the campaign for a mother and baby (MBU) unit in Wales. But before I do that, I would like to share something from Michelle Williams.
The struggles that Michelle and Mark (Fathers Mental Health Pioneer) went through is what started Marks journey into perinatal mental health. When hearing that the only MBU in Wales was due to close, Mark started a campaign for a mother and baby unit and better perinatal mental health (PMH) care in Wales. I got on board with the campaign just after my own experience of postpartum psychosis.
If it wasn’t for Mark starting the petition and campaign, would we of just accepted that we have to travel outside of Wales for support in a MBU? Probably!
After the birth of my child I went into a downward spiral of thinking I couldn’t cope with having a baby. I was so distressed I was unable to sleep. I even had to force myself to eat. I’d just had a son, I desperately wanted to be happy, but I struggled through the days and felt constantly tired.
I had never suffered depression before my son, Ethan was born. I was totally uneducated in 2004 about mental health and postnatal depression.
My life became a blur, and after a few weeks I was diagnosed with severe postnatal depression. I was advised I should be placed inside a secure unit, no mother and baby unit was ever mentioned. My husband Mark talked me out of going.
There was no specialist services back then! I was under the care of the crisis and community mental teams.
I am sure it would have helped knowing other mums felt the same. If we had been given better information about how serious my condition was, the outcome would have been different. Instead I was prescribed medication, started cognitive behavioural therapy and returned home.
I was offered groups which I attended, the groups were filled with mostly men with bipolar, or those who had been in armed forces. There was nothing for mums. The groups helped me understand more, and I slowly started to build my confidence through doing simple things.
Over time, my life started to improve, but I could tell Mark was also suffering but never told me!
I was fortunate that my community psychiatric nurse realised I was losing control, but others might not be so lucky. In the future, I would like to see more mother and baby units open around the country and for there to be better training for maternal mental health professionals.
I am now a mental health advocate and volunteer coordinator with Mental Health Matters Wales and have so much purpose in my life. I also support my husband’s work who helped start the campaign with Charlotte Harding to deliver over 14,000 names to Welsh Government.
It’s not fair that families don’t have the service of a #MBUWales unit. In fact it’s just not right!
Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness week 2019, has been very successful.
I just want to take the time to thank each, and everyone of the families who shared their perinatal mental health stories with me this year.
I know how much it hurts to relive a traumatic time in life. You are all so, so, brave. I hope that the message for a mother and baby unit in Wales was heard! We shouted loud enough!!
Since the first post this week, I have had emails, messages and Facebook conversations with families affected by perinatal mental health. Both men and women have praised us all for being so open about our struggles.
Our stories have touched thousands of people this week, we have most definitely dropped the stigma. I really hope it will continue, and I hope mums will continue to share with each other.
You are not alone, you will pull through, talk to others and let them in.
So where do we go from here?
Sharon Fernandez, the National Clinical Lead for Perinatal Mental Health, is working her butt off to ensure that our voices are heard. Sharon, along with others on the All Wales Perinatal Mental Health Steering Group, are working hard to re-establish an MBU unit in Wales.
Mark Williams and myself will continue to campaign for a unit. We wont stop until a unit is up and running!
Sharon wants to improve services just as much as we do, hence her reason involving those affected by perinatal mental health difficulties.
With this in mind I have brought together a board of lived experience. The board enables those with a lived experience to share stories with others in a safe place. The board also attends conferences and helps the All Wales PMH Steering Group by giving insight into PMH difficulties.
We are always looking for those living in Wales, with a lived experience to help us in our campaign for better services. If you would like to ‘jump on board’ please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1171950549582939/