Thursday, 15 May 2008

Milan with Forward Ladies.

My trip to Milan was the second visit to Europe as part of the Forward Ladies programme.

After our introduction to all things European last month we felt more informed this time as we embarked on finding out about business links with Italy.

20 ladies with a variety of business interest left Leeds/Bradford airport on 12th May. I stayed the night before with a friend I had made on the previous trip called Jackie Whiteley who has a great business selling a garden organic straw mulch. She has clients like the Eden project and Ground Force.

Once in Milan we drove to our hotel - the Sheraton Diana Majestic. It was very swish. Several of us lounged in the inner courtyard on huge leather settees and had our first real Italian cappuccino.

We walked to a traditional Bar called Bar Basso where we had cocktails and heard from the owner about the history of his business. A charming gentleman called Riccardo Monti, who is the director and Country Head of Value Partners of South East Europe and the Middle East, then spoke to us about Italian Business, the Economy and the Role of Women in Italian Business. From there we had a fantastic meal at a restaurant called Da Ilia followed by a brief talk from Paola Patti, CEO of a travel company called Valtur.

The following day we had an early start for a breakfast meeting with the Professional Woman's Association of Milan. We had other talks from other business ladies and we were left with the impression that we are far more ahead in the UK as regards women in business. There still seems to be a male dominance and women are expected to be more of the home-maker and carer for children and elderly relatives as there are few provisions made for them elsewhere, and where there are nurseries they tend to be very expensive. This article explains more reasons.

I asked a few ladies about the attitude and facilities around postnatal illness and they agreed that it also needs to be less taboo in Italy.

That evening we had a cheese and wine event with some members from the British Chamber of Commerce followed by a talk from a cosmetic surgeon who works in several countries.
I met with some staff at the British Consulate from UK Trade and Investment. They were very helpful and told me that being an English speaker in Italy is not a problem as regards speaking at events. We are looking into the possibility of getting my book translated and at speaking opportunities.

I hope to return to Milan soon!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Soroptimist International Conference

Today I was delighted to speak at a joint regional conference of Soroptimist International. Soroptimist International is a worldwide organisation for women in management and the professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women. The word Soroptimist comes from the Latin words soror meaning "sister" and optima meaning "best", and loosely translates as "best for women".

I was at the South Lancashire and North West England and the Isle of Man conference at the Daresbury Park Hotel, Warrington. The theme was 'Health, Wealth and Happiness'. The 150 ladies (and one male speaker) listened to my presentation which I had adapted for their theme. Several ladies told me that they found my tips on how to help people suffering with this problem very useful. Several had been affected themselves or a close family member had been. I apparently educated as well as entertained, which is my aim. One lady expressed that she wished she had know the symptoms and signs years earlier as she would have understood and been able to help one of her relatives far more.

It was a wonderful conference and I was made most welcome. I was also invited to the evening dinner where some extremely talented young musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music entertained us. They made me want to encourage Dominic's drum lessons even more!

The conference report is here

I look forward to attending more Soroptimist's events.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Being filmed!

I was contacted this week by a young lady called Amy who is in her final year of a media course. She had heard about me due to newspaper articles in the Liverpool Echo

and Daily Post

where I had asked for people to contact the commissioners about the need for more facilities in the Northwest in particular.

She wanted to make a film for her final assignment and I agreed to help her. I was also delighted when one mum who says my book saved her from suicide also said she would be happy to be interviewed.

I hope you pass with flying colours Amy and we look forward to seeing you do it for real one day!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Lecture by Prof. A Stein

Today I attended a lecture by Professor A Stein (Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Oxford) at an event organized by Manchester Medical Society. The title was 'The influence of parental depression on mother-infant interaction and child development in the context of adversity'.
The event was well attended by a mixture of academics, students and practitioners. These were his main points.
He stressed the need to know what the normal processes of infant/parent bonding were and commented that at six weeks of age the infant is highly sensitive to the qualities of adult communication. At nine months of age an infant uses his parent for social referencing, i.e. how to react, as parents normally convey pre-verbal information, e.g. by expression. Infants learn from their mothers.
However, postnatal depression affects thoughts, emotions and behaviour in a negative way which often leads to a narrow focus of attention. A study by Sarason(1986) showed this had a profound impact on attention and activity which affects attention and responses. This compromises parenting and diminishes responsiveness.
Other studies have been done which show the risk of adverse effects, e.g. mother/father interaction (Murray); behavioural development (Sinclair); social development (Halligan) and cognitive (Hay). Also a study by Lovejoy showed that cognitive development is affected more where the family is more disadvantaged, especially by poor language.
In the developing world PND also can be affected by poorer growth, digestive problems, e.g. diarrhea, insensitive parenting and insecure attachment. Nyleen (2006) said that treating depression alone does not migrate the effects on children - we need to deal with the mother/infant interaction too. They trained lay workers to enhance maternal responsiveness which lead to increased attachment.
Postnatal depression can affect 3 - 4% of fathers. Ramchandani (1995) reported that this was associated with behavioural problems, especially in boys, when the infant was 3 years old. Also at 8 years there were increased psychiatric diagnosis. The main conditions were of OCD and conduct disorder. At this age there was no gender difference.
HIV/Aids and depression was highlighted. 25 million have died from it and 38.6 million are living with HIV. 4.1 million were infected in 2005. In sub-Sahara Africa half of new cases are in 15 - 24 year olds. More women are infected earlier than men. There are high rates of HIV in pregnancy which can be reduced by doses of relevant drugs if given within hours of birth, which lowers vertical transmission. This is better for the infant but parents are still HIV. Often mothers are given news of suffering of HIV during pregnancy. This creates mixed feelings. Sufferers have to take medication for ever - this is better with ARV's - anti-retro viral treatment but it is not available for everyone and some will not or do not take it. The feelings of being told you are HIV positive still have a stigma, there are issues of fidelity and many negative thoughts. All these are likely to be worse if you have a new baby. Babies and their siblings show that their mental and motor development is affected. There are some non-medical treatment trials in Uganda at the moment regarding PND and HIV.
Therefore we can clearly see that parental depression has influence on mother-infant interaction and child development in the context of adversity.
Thank you Professor Stein for an interesting lecture and to the Manchester Medical Society for hosting the event.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

PNI Awareness Weekend

This weekend was the PNI Awareness Weekend.
Up and down the country there were events to try to raise some awareness and funds to help ease the suffering of postnatal illness. They were all arranged by members of the web-based forum

Today I joined some mums and tots at an event in Chester. We met at the beautiful home of 'Hopeful', one of the moderators of the site. Her family made us all most welcome - thanks to her, her husband and charming children for letting us invade!

We drank, ate and chatted for several hours but a walk was abandoned due to the pouring rain (nothing to do with the delicious food on offer!).

Listening to other Mums makes me realise how much we must support each other and continue to strive for better facilities for all involved.

One of the other Mums was from Winsford, Cheshire. If you are in that area let me know and I'll pass on her details. A coffee and a chat with another Mum who really understands is so effective.

Well done to Veritee and everyone involved in the Awareness weekend. I am so proud and privileged to be your Patron!

I have now got my PNI recipe book. It is brilliant! I might even find my way back into the kitchen to make us something! I have delegated many of my household chores to Nick these days! Or maybe I could give some suggestions.......

I am currently working on my website upgrade and am looking forward to making the link so much stronger to the forum.

Best wishes to all at


Thursday, 1 May 2008

Fish, Feet and Faces!

Today I had the pleasure of being a guest on BBC Radio Manchester Coffee Shop slot on the Heather Stott show.

Heather and her team make us guests feel very welcome. They pick out stories from the daily newspapers and off-air Heather chats with us all about them and if we have any anecdotes to then discuss on air.

The two other guests had businesses which can help people suffering from depression!

A good diet is essential and fish is a great nutritional food. The MD, Dan, from
was there. A lovely guy who lives just in the village next to me! Look at his site for a brilliant choice of fish and seafood for home delivery.

The other guest was Anne Holloway who is a reflexologist, Thai masseur, aromatherapist and masseur. All brilliant to help in recovery. She is based in Heald Green, Manchester.

From there I hosted an event for

We had a lovely buffet lunch at the Victoria and Albert hotel in Manchester; networked with a variety of business ladies and then had a language taster session in Italian. Our tutor was the charming Marilyn from her language school
We all left well fed and equipped with a few useful phrases - just need some Italians to practice with!

I spent the evening at a house in Kelsall with some lovely ladies looking at some of my Virgin Vie skin care. The night developed into conversations around motherhood after we had all been pampered with a facial!

A busy but great day!