Reuben and I have spent the last week in London, at Westminster.
We were invited by the wonderful Dr Raja Gangopadhyay, to attend a debate in the House of Lords (see details below). Raja is a Consultant Obstetrician in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) campaigning for reducing stigma and better PMH services within Maternity Units.
As we were going to be there, I set about emailing our N.I. MP’s and Peers, to see if I could meet with them to discuss PMH. I was delighted to get very positive responses which set my diary for a busy week!
We are both exhausted but it was brilliant, so I just wanted to take time to share with you about it!
This took place in the House of Lords, hosted by Baroness of Shaws, Helena Kennedy and Sanchita Islma (Author and PMH Campaigner). Both where wonderful and I learned much from them.
I was surrounded by 70 other amazing people – Dr, clinicians, PMH campaigners and survivors and Charity representatives.
I want to pause and personally thank Raja for his kind invite but more importantly all the work he does on this issue. He is truly an inspiration and devotes way more time and energy, than he needs to, to this cause. Thank you, Raja!
The wisdom, truth and passion in the room was palpable! Many personal stories were shared, all very moving. Lots of practical support was discussed, the need for which we ALL agreed on. And the common theme seemed to be that more needs to be done in the area of PMH and together we want to make sure we see it happen.
The wonderful Eve Canavan made very clear that mere words are not enough, action is want we need and we need it NOW, for the mums who are battling this today and every day!
I was very taken with all that GP Stephanie De Giorgio said, during the debate, but especially when she talked regarding how GP’s should interact with new mums. As a GP herself, she is involved with training others as to how best to talk to mums and she (so very wisely) said that the Edinburgh questionnaire may not be the best gauge of a mums mental health. She prefers to take time to ask two very simple but honest questions – “How are you really finding motherhood?” and “How was the birth” – she believe that LISTENING to these answers can and does unlock the door as to how the mum truly might be! I cannot agree more. She also suggested that it’s better for mums to have a separate ‘check-up’ from the new-born, which would allow her a few minutes on her own, to focus on how she really is, without perhaps worrying constantly about the baby or whether it is going to cry or need to be fed!
YES, YES, YES!! I could not agree more. I dreaded taking Reuben to the doctors, I was terrified to have him with me, and could just about manage to get him checked out and get home, in one piece. I love this idea. In my Open Letter to the Department of Health I mentioned how perhaps we need to ‘re-educate’ HCP’s about how to deal with and interact with new mums and PMH – all of these ideas would be great to see in N.I.
I also got to meet the lovely Elaine Hanzak, author and PMH survivor and campaigner, who shared lots of her wisdom with me, as I try to play my part helping to improve PMH in NI. She made a great point during the debate about mums, who have suffered once in pregnancy with a PMH issue, being worried about ‘going again’. She highlighted the need for plans to be in place for mums BEFORE they get pregnant, to ease this burden and help to prevent further struggles.
The MP’s and Peers
I got to talk with Margaret Richie (MP), Danny Kinihan (MP), Sylvia Hermon (MP), Nigel Dodds (MP) from Northern Ireland along with House of Lords Peers Wallace Brown and William Hay. For good measure I also got to chat to Vernon Coaker (MP) and Ben Wallace (MP) too! We had great conversations about Perinatal Mental Health, genuine questions and promises to help – which I will hold them all to!
I was able to share with all of them the MMHA map and how 99% of NI is red – i.e no provision for PMH and how we desperately need to see BIG change. Here’s what I told them we needed to see –
Each of them has gone off to follow-up, with others, on the things we discussed and I will be back in touch with them soon, to see where they are on the issues. But genuinely, I do believe they understood the need. While this is a devolved issue for N.I., so therefore the major change will not be made in Westminster, each has promised to use their influence and contacts to help move the campaign along. I was so impressed by each of them and I look forward to working with them more on this issue. I big thank you to all of you, for taking time to meet and chat!
I am really tired. Emotionally, mentally and physically. This week has taken it out of me. I found listening to others, sharing my own story, surviving the heat and keeping going when I wanted to ‘lie down’ hard. But it was worth it. I know that I need to take it easy next week – I am still recovering and I can’t maintain that pace all the time. (Oh, how I wish I could!). I am now getting reading to head away with NCT tomorrow for the day, to Edinburgh. I am looking forward to learning more about the charity and how I might be able to help them with their PMH work in N.I.
But next week I am taking a break….I promise myself that. Reuben is also exhausted, but we had lots of fun too, as hopefully these pictures show!