Dr Andrew Mayers

Perinatal mental health: awareness and support

Media links

My mental health campaigning work frequently attracts the attention of local and national media. Please click here to see an overview of radio, TV, and other media appearances.

I spend a lot 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.

Support groups

It is an honour to be associated with a number of excellent not-for-profit support groups and charities across the UK. Here are a few examples.

Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP)

This excellent charity specifically supports mothers (and families) experiencing postpartum psychosis; it is a pleasure to be a supporter of this group. 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).

Local support groups

At a local level, you may find that there is a maternal mental health support group, who aim 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:

Bluebell (Bristol)

The Smile Group (Cheshire)

Juno (Edinburgh)

PSS PND (Liverpool)

Cocoon Family Support (London)

Support and information for fathers

All too often, husbands and partners are overlooked when it comes to providing support and information. I aim to address that on this website, by referring to the services that are available - see web page for fathers.

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 will be made available through websites and mobile phone apps. All of those resources are sanctioned by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. I am serving on the advisory board for this initiative.

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 GMT/BST. 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.

Community services

Not all women are necessarily unwell enough to warrant the need for intensive care (such as mother and baby units). Some may be experiencing problems with low mood, heightened anxiety, or problems with coping adequately. We need better community support services to help them. There are already many excellent examples of these, such as the Home Start Haven groups, where are often operated in Sure Start Children's Centres. In Bournemouth, these groups are funded by Barnardo's (for whom it is a pleasure to serve on their advisory group locally). I am looking at ways in which we can extend those services in other areas of Dorset - so that all families have access. I will be exploring how to get funding to work with groups, such as Home Start and Barnardo's, to make this possible.

e-mail: amayers@bournemouth.ac.uk

Twitter: @DrAndyMayers