Thursday, 27 March 2008

Care Programme Approach

On Wednesday I had a long train journey to Ipswich. I had a lovely meal and overnight stay at The Salthouse Harbour Hotel. My bed was so comfy, heaps of pillows and a huge TV that I was reluctant to have to go to sleep! One of the best rooms I have ever stayed in - a lovely mix of old and new styles!

The following morning I was collected by a very friendly chap called Phil (very best wishes to him and his wife who are expecting their third child next week!). He took me to the Kesgrave Community Centre - another impressive venue! I have to say I am impressed with Ipswich!

I was there to speak at a carer, user and staff Care Programme Approach (CPA) workshop event called Stepping Forward. CPA and Care Plans are the process the NHS use to make sure you receive properly planned and coordinated care. This event was intended to raise the profile of the CPA process. It was hoped that as many users and carer’s from the service would attend to share this day and to become involved in future developments within the trust.

There was a good mix of people there including a psychiatrist and several people who have suffered from mental health problems. Sorry but I do not like the term 'service user'!

My talk was aimed at trying to encourage patients to share their stories with professionals involved in their care but also in a format they are happy to use to inform and teach students. I felt very guilty at making several people cry when I spoke of Angela Harrison who committed suicide due to suffering from puerperal psychosis. But we do not want any more tragedies like Angela, and that is why I am passionate about telling people about the illness. I have not only benefited personally by sharing my story but my testimonials tell me that I am making a difference out there and I urge others to do so. When I wrote my book initially it was very cathartic and I never anticipated how far it would go but I am delighted it has. So if you communicate by art, poetry, written or spoken word tell your story! We need to empower ourselves but unless we feedback positive and negative aspects of our care nothing will change.

Aly Lynn followed me with her story - she had been a patient in the past and now contributes to the work of the Autistic Society at a national level and has made appearances on national television to campaign. I am not surprised! She was fantastic!

She was followed by a gentleman called Len who bravely told of his involvement with mental services for his adult son. He has worked closely with Suffolk Carers to highlight issues and support the drive for improved service provision. Let's make it happen!

I was fascinated by Tanya Kennard who is MD for Freemind Consultancy. She spoke about 'recovery as a journey, as much as a destination'. I loved her comment that 'hope is the spark that ignites the flame for progress and possibility'.

We broke into groups to come up with an Action Plan for improving the CPA in the Suffolk area. There were calls for another meeting in July to track progress and really make a difference. I wish them well with it and hope to see other areas making positive steps in this way. Working together we are much more likely to make progress.

Please contact Larry below if you would like any more information on this day.

Larry Nicholas S.U.F., Suffolk House, St Clement’s Hospital, Foxhall Road, Ipswich IP3 8LS E-mail:

Thank you Jeannie for inviting me to speak and to all her colleagues and delegates for making me feel most welcome!


Friday, 21 March 2008

Setting up a local support group

I have been in contact recently with a local lady here in Helsby, Cheshire. We both share a goal in wanting to set up a local group to support Mums and their families affected by poor maternal mental health.

We met up for the first time on Good Friday. We immediately got on and lists have been made and initial plans are in progress!

Do you know anyone in the Frodsham/Helsby area who would be interested in helping or needing the support we aim to offer?

Please let us know!


Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Association of Radical Midwives - Staffordshire and Shropshire

I addressed this local ARM meeting. They are midwives, student midwives and others in the UK committed to improving the maternity care provided by the NHS. They strongly believe that all women have the right to a service tailored more closely to their needs, and a sympathetic attitude on the part of their professional attendants. They are primarily a support group for people having difficulty in getting or giving good, sympathetic, personalised midwifery care. A few of them are working independently outside the NHS, in order to offer a more woman-centred, one-to-one, style of practice, which at present is not widely available within NHS maternity services. There are contacts and/or local groups all around UK, as well as several overseas members.

I gave my presentation about my story, the effects of poor perinatal mental health and some hints and tips of what really matters to mums.

They were a lovely group and made me feel very welcome - thank you! Two ladies brought along their partners, one of whom was a policeman. He suggested that the police could do to listen to me too as they have little or training in dealing with people in mental distress. He felt it may help them to have a more understanding approach. Any police contacts for training out there?

It was good to see so many student midwives so passionate about making a real difference to the mothers-to-be and helping them through their experiences with dignity and care. What a disgrace when some of the newly trained ones are still not in a post yet wards are crying out for them! What is going on out there??

Keep up the good work!


Beyond the Smile

‘Beyond the smile: working together for positive maternal mental health’ PMHCWN / CSIP / Mind / Marce Society study day. It was a fantastic opportunity for all those involved in maternity services, health and social care to learn from many excellent speakers!

This was a great event with more than 100 people who attended and there was a waiting list!
I had a lovely evening before the event with Breda Seaman who has set up support groups for mums in NHS Forth Valley Acute Services and Rose dr Paeztron and Carolyn Martin from the Newpin programme in Southwark, London.

It was good to see some familiar faces in the room - Carol Henshaw, Caroline Carr, Jan Cubison, for example. Also Wendy and Alison from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust. I had a meeting with them a few weeks ago when they were telling me of their specialist Primrose Suite for mothers and babies.

The whole theme of the day was aimed at getting different groups to work together in helping to ease the suffering of the whole family and not just the mother.

There was some superb artwork on display done by poorly mums - stunning! I feel that the creative aspect of 'recovery' is often overlooked yet it can be very helpful. I remember teaching a fellow patient to knit dolls clothes for her daughter when I was an in-patient.

It was good to see a group of young Dads there too.

Were you there? Would you like to post any of your details to tell others of your good practice or anything you want help with?

Let's keep on working together! For a review of the day look at

Thanks to all the team involved for a productive day!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Shaken babies

This morning I was invited to speak on BBC Radio Three Counties. The topic was about Shaken Baby Syndrome due to the Panorama programme tonight. Although I do not know about the science, etc. involved in this I do have to admit that I shook my baby on his first Christmas Day. He was crying and it was my attempt to shut him up - at the time I was suffering from puerperal psychosis and had lost all rationality in my brain. This does not excuse what I did (and luckily Dominic was okay) but what I can suggest to people is that if they are feeling overwhelmed by parenthood then PLEASE get help before you get to this stage. Much better than having to cope with the consequences afterwards.
I will never forgive myself for what I did and am horrified at the memory of it. I share that memory in the hope it will make someone else 'stop' and get help.

See my website at


Sunday, 9 March 2008

Welcome to my new blog!

For a while I have known I should have a real blog - most days there is something which crops up which I want to share with you all.
This last week has been a busy one. I spoke at a conference on self-injury. There was a great speaker called Phil who taught us all a great deal.
Then I was at the 12th RCN European Mental Health nurse conference in Chester. I followed the General Secretary of the RCN, Dr. Peter Carter, who shared his wish list for the future of nursing. One idea was that psychiatric patients should all have single bedrooms. Yet I disagree with this as I know I would have hated to be on my own when I was so poorly. I feel there should be a choice. One of my main symptoms with puerperal psychosis was a total feeling of isolation - being put in what I would have perceived as being as 'cell' would have made me feel even more so. What do you think?
Then on Friday I listened to some superb presentations at an event at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists/
BSPOGA meeting. Wow! The psychological aspects across all angles of obs and gynae is huge. Various statistics amazed me - 27% of ladies who have hospital births rate it as traumatic! Antenatal stress, especially around 32 weeks, has a big impact on the baby's emotional development. I took lots of notes so I can pass them on at future events.
Got a week at home now to follow-up and catch-up!