Perinatal Mental Health Partnership win award for challenging perinatal mental health stigma
Fathers' mental health in the news:
Perinatal mental health
This page provides an overview of the perinatal mental health campaigns that I am privileged to be a part of, and the research and professional work that I undertake. This typically focuses on pre- and postnatal depression, postpartum psychosis (including bipolar disorders), maternal OCD, birth trauma and PTSD, and perinatal eating disorders. The term 'perinatal' refers to the period from pregnancy to one year after the birth. Mental health affects the mother, the father, and the child - the entire family. I have been associated with perinatal mental health services since 2003, when I started work as a research co-ordinator for a team based near the New Forest in Hampshire (operated by what was then Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust, now Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust). Under the inspirational supervision of Dr Alain Gregoire, I soon developed a passion for maternal mental health.
Much of my current work focuses on campaigning for better services (through national groups such as the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership. You will find a summary of that work on this page, with more detail on the campaigns page. You can also read an overview of some of the perinatal mental illnesses. I also promote awareness about perinatal mental health, mostly through social media. I deliver mental health training programmes for health professionals (including pre- and post-registration health visitors and midwives), through Bournemouth University. I have good ties with the perinatal mother and baby unit in Bournemouth. More recently, my work has also incorporated fathers' mental health.
Working with some truly great people, I am part of some highly influential campaigns. Through these, we have several aims: to raise public awareness; encourage people to talk freely about perinatal mental health (and seek support); provide better support for families (by improving NHS and community services, and funding charitable groups); help educate key health professionals (such as GPs, midwives, health visitors,and obstetricians); and foster better communication between services and professionals.
Related to the above, a consequence of poor perinatal mental health is the impact it can have on the attachment between the parent and child. Poor attachment can contribute to developmental problems in children. To address this, I am a Trustee for DorPIP, a Dorset-based charity seeks to provide therapeutic support for parent-infant relationships.
Although we have made good progress with establishing the need for better perinatal mental health services in secondary care, there is much still to do for those who do not need such intense intervention. One of the places we can help parents during the perinatal period is through their employer. Peppy Health is a new-start company providing access to perinatal support through businesses. I provide advice and guidance to Peppy on mental health matters, including screening potential counsellors to ensure they really get why maternal mental illness is so very different than we might see in other adults.
PMH Families (for NHS England)
Early in 2019, the UK Government announced the new NHS Long-Term Plan. Within that, there are proposals to fundamentally improve perinatal mental health services at the community level, through NHS England. Within that provision, fathers' mental health will be more seriously considered than ever before. This outcome has come about after years of campaigning. To help develop that provision, I have been included on a new Expert Reference Group for fathers, though PMH Families (who have been commissioned by NHS England to take these proposals forward, supported by quality evidence).
Other charities and support groups
I have the honour and privilege to work with some of the most inspiring charities and support groups, along with some great social media initiatives. These provide valuable, and safe, support services across the UK. You can discover more about these resources here.
In this modern age, a great way to raise awareness about perinatal mental health is through the use of blogs, written by inspirational people with powerful lived-experience stories. Some of my favourite mental health bloggers are featured here.
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of over 70 national organisations, for whom improving perinatal mental health is central to the work that they do. MMHA is leading several key projects, focused on improving services, education and information (as well as raising awareness). You can find an overview of those projects here. The most long-standing of those projects is the #everyonesbusiness campaign, which calls for all women throughout the UK, who experience perinatal mental health problems, to receive the care they and their families need, wherever and whenever they need it. The campaign has launched two major reports: a mapping of (the very limited) services across the UK; and the economic impact of perinatal mental illness. An independent review of that work (funded by Comic Relief) confirms what a major impact the campaigns have had on perinatal mental health.
Have you seen latest MMHA maps? Encouraging progress, but there are still huge gaps in perinatal mental health services across the UK. We MUST change this
Perinatal Mental Health Partnership
The Perinatal Mental Health Partnership is a group of health professionals, charity leaders, mental health campaigners, and advocates with lived experience of perinatal mental illness. We have several very exciting projects in the planning stage, all intended to influence significant changes to perinatal mental health services nationally and locally. We are a member of MMHA. Each year (in early May), we run Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. In September 2018, our work challenging perinatal mental health stigma was recognised with an award from MMHA. ince it's inception in 2015, the awareness week has grown in recognition. The 2019 campaign received a great deal of media attention, and encouraged groups and individuals to engage in many activities that raised awareness for maternal mental health.
1001 Critical Days
'1001 Critical Days' is an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) committed to ensuring that children get the very best start in life (1001 days represents the period from pregnancy to the child's second birthday). This cross-party initiative involves several MPs including Tim Loughton, Frank Field, and Norman Lamb. A central theme is improving perinatal and infant mental health. The 1001 Critical Days APPG manifesto was relaunched on December 14th 2015. I was privileged to be at that launch in Parliament. You can read the report here along with a media feature from Dorset Eye.
It is essential that we continually expand our knowledge about perinatal mental health. We can do that by designing, implementing and reporting high quality research. You can read about some of my own research in this area. In short, my recent work has focused on a number of aspects relating to this important topic. Some projects have examined health professionals' perceptions of how well educated and trained they are on perinatal mental health (separate studies for health visitors, midwives, and GPs). Another study explored perceptions of fathers who had witnessed the wife/partner's birth trauma (in respect how they coped with that experience, what information they received, and what support they were given: a similar study focused on mothers' experiences. Some studies have focused on general aspects of fathers' mental health.
Want to know more about perinatal mental illnesses?
I have included a brief overview of the most common perinatal mental illnesses here, but you might also like to check out the resources provided by NHS Choices and Action of Postpartum Psychosis. You can watch a highly informative, and very moving, account of postpartum psychosis here. Ultimately, you should always refer to a qualified professional to get reliable advice and information.