Saturday, 22 November 2008

Dubai - another country to explore!

I joined a UK Trade and Investment mission from the Northwest to Dubai for almost a week.
The idea was to meet with people who may be interested in what I have to offer. Clive Gott came with me and our aim was to present our talks as individuals and as a partnership. In past years Clive has worked in Dubai and had loved it.
We joined a lovely group of business people and UKTI staff and from the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce.

Other colleagues from the Professional Speakers Association had also told us that it was 'the' place to speak, so we arrived full of enthusiasm.

Unfortunately it did not prove as successful as we had anticipated. I found it to be a concrete jungle! I did not like the traffic jams; going from air-con to air-con environment and everything was so expensive! The meetings I had expected did not happen and I felt that postnatal illness and mental health is not as recognised as in the UK and to make a huge difference in Dubai I would have to spend a great deal of time, PR and marketing to make it successful. For the time being it is not likely to be be high on my list but if I do go back to Australia next autumn then I may try again in Dubai enroute.

I did love having a dhow ride in the creek and watching the sunset reflected in a bank building. I loved the atmosphere of the gold souk (market) and the tiny streets of original Dubai. I was fascinated by all the many, many nationalities out there. A desert safari trip was fun!

On the final evening I was lucky to be one of the 10 mission delegates to be invited onboard the QE2 which had arrived the previous evening. It is now to be striped and turned into a hotel. We were guests at a 'Britain in the Region' event for champagne and canapes. Lord Digby Jones gave a short presentation and I introduced myself to him! I also chatted to the medical officer of the QE2; two lovely young sailors from HMS Lancaster - one lived in Thornton Cleveleys where I spent my childhood! I spoke to the consulate general of Casablanca - who has a home in Chester, a few miles away from me. Finally I had a brief chat with Omar, who is based at the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi - he told me that he had several contacts for my speaking .... so I may just go back!

Thanks to all who made the trip possible, especially Sandra Thornber from UKTI.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

I spoke at The European Parliament!

Today I set off for a potentially exciting trip – to speak at the European Parliament in Strasbourg! And it lived up to expectations!

This had come about through a series of events and meetings. Carol Henshaw, an academic psychiatrist, asked me to speak at the Marce society conference in 2006. This lead to the French delegates, Michel Maron and Abram Cohen to translating my book into French, published this year. Through Will Kintish I joined the Professional Speakers Association at which John Hotowka introduced me to Etta Cohen at Forward Ladies, who had a trip to Europe this spring. I also joined the UKTI Passport to Export scheme which gave me introductions into the British Embassies in the countries I visited. Whilst in Milan with Forward Ladies I met up with Nicole from the British Embassy. She thought that their MEP may be interested in my messages and we sent a copy of my French edition to her – Christina Muscardini.

Thank you to you all!

As a result I was invited by her to address the Union for Europe of the Nations at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. My travel arrangements were made brilliantly by Andrea from Wren Elite Travel, who I had met at Forward Ladies and consequently I flew from Manchester to Paris and onto Strasbourg.

I checked it at the Ibis Strasbourg hotel at a pretty town called Lingolsheim, just outside Strasbourg and after a short rest got a taxi to the impressive European Parliament. As I stood in the impressive inner courtyard I reflected on how I had got here in the grand scheme of things and wondered what difference I might make to the world as a result.

A lovely Italian gentleman, Roberto, from Christina’s office met me and I was issued with my ID card.
We went up the glass elevators within the inner atrium of the EP Louise Weiss Building and found the relevant committee meeting room – I wasn’t in the main hemi-sphere (this time!). The room was tiered with large, blue chairs and individual microphones and headphones at each chair. Several had names placed in front of the microphones. Around the back of the tiers was a gallery, behind glass, where 15 interpreters were getting ready for the session. Behind the platform at the front was another control area for the technicians. After we set up my presentation EP staff were putting agendas at each ‘desk’ and also gave them to the interpreters. It all looked very efficient and impressive.
Then Roberto took me on a mini-tour of the building. We peeked in the main hemi-sphere where it was questions and answer session. Turkey was being debated. Due to my tour of the EU in Brussels earlier this year I knew that Turkey wants to become a member of the EU but there are human rights issues to be sorted. Around the hemi-sphere were various media areas for TV interviews.

I briefly met Frank Barnett, the Secretary General of the UEN, who had sent my original invitation to speak at the meeting.

The meeting commenced and eventually I was invited in to do my presentation. As I settled myself down I realised that I would be speaking whilst sitting down – I hadn’t done that before, but got used to it after a few minutes. Likewise it was the first time I had spoken and had been instantly translated before! I felt I should speak a little more slowly than I usually do, but when I played back some of the video that Roberto did of me, I felt like I had my school teacher voice on! However, just before I started I could tell the other members seemed to speak normally – I guess it was the interpreters job, not mine, to worry about this. The aspect I found was strange was regarding ‘reactions of the audience’ – due to the delay in my words being translated, presumably at different speeds, individuals reacted with a smile or concern as appropriate at different times! It was rather unnerving!
15 minutes or so later I had delivered my talk telling them my personal story and why I feel postnatal illness needs initiatives in place by the EU for better recognition, treatment, resources and support across Europe. I also stressed the need for training of existing health and social professionals.
When I had finished Christina Muscardini thanked me for sharing my story and encouraging them to take some action. They have been looking at the whole area and have heard researchers, looked at statistics and learnt about the impact the illness can have. My role was to show how with treatment and support it is possible to recover and to inspire them to put the initiatives into place.
When the meeting ended she thanked me personally and with Roberto translating for us I gathered that she wants me to speak in other countries (27 member states!)and is getting Roberto to write a motion for a resolution for me to send out. To be continued!
However, one aspect I was not expecting could be extremely important. I mentioned in my talk about the problems I had faced as a result of my postnatal illness once I had recovered. This included our home insurance premium being higher due to my ‘mental health history’. Also not long after my book was published in 2005 I took a term off my teaching career as sabbatical leave to see if I could make a new career of speaking. For that term I applied to a supply teaching agency who would not consider me ‘due to my mental health history’. At the time I was horrified and even though I pointed out that I had been well for 8 years with no subsequent problems this made no difference. Also the fact that I could return to my full-time post was acceptable but part-time was not! Crazy!
At the end of the session a Polish MEP came to speak to me. He said he was very alarmed at this stigma and discrimination and would be taking the issue to other committees he is involved with such as Social Affairs and Employment. He said he had not realised that the UK was operating in this way and he would be taking steps to stop this practice. He said that unlike some mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, which are more likely to be a life-long condition, for ladies like myself who have made a full recovery there is now way that we should face such discrimination. Other EU countries do not do this and as all EU members were supposed to be united on such matters he will be taking immediate action. Wow! I do hope I have made a difference!!!

Watch this space for developments!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Live now on Ruby's Room!

I am now on Ruby's Room main internet site!

Have a look at

Short and 'sweet'?!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Tamworth Postnatal Support Group Study Day

Awesome! Moving! Brilliant!
In the years I have been speaking now I do not think any event has impressed me as much as this event did.

I got off to an excellent start by having a very sociable evening and stay at the Drayton Court Hotel
It was lovely as a lone traveller to feel so welcome by the proprietor Katie, her staff and fellow guests.

Then onto Drayton Manor. What a fabulous venue. The conference area and facilities were very swish.

There were around 300 delegates from as far away as Antigua! Many more had applied but had to be turned away. There were a variety of exhibitors, a massive raffle with 75 donated prizes! The Tamworth Postnatal Support Group had done a magnificent job of setting this event up; had got a variety of sponsors and the day was planned to such incredible detail by Jill Beckett, her colleagues and a team of mothers who had been involved with the group.

The staging and media were magnificent, done by and the day was filmed by

A former PND sufferer opened the day with breathtaking monologue called 'Who am I?' which vividly described how she had felt. Throughout the day we had many other dramatic presentations by former sufferers which were so powerful. Well done ladies.

Kathryn Gutteridge was the keynote speaker and she had founded the group in 1997. It has since helped over 1000 women. One statistic that she gave was that in the last three years 1,100 children have been left behind due to their mothers committing suicide due to postnatal illness. See the difference that just ONE person CAN make. I feel inspired myself.

Caroline Carr, a clinical nurse specialist from Stafford Mother and Baby Unit gave a very interesting talk on mental health disorders with case studies from her work.

I delivered my talk and again made people cry!

But for me the stars of the day were the 'dramatic' mothers. Their messages were fantastic and I am sure that there will be 300 professionals inspired today to go and make a difference.

The group is planning a DVD of the day and also a pack on how to set up a group like theirs. Jill Beckett is a midwife ... yet if she ever gets bored she would have no problem in getting a job as an event planner as it was the best I have been to.

Fantastic ladies. Very, very well done. It was an honour to be there.

Sadly as I drove home the news reported of the stabbing of two babies by their mother in Manchester. That is why postnatal depression HAS to be taken seriously and action taken NOW.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008


This morning I attended a meeting of the NW Infant and Maternal Mental Health network. I represent the service users. There are some very passionate professionals in this area who undoubtedly do a great deal to get action in this area BUT lack of funding is getting in the way of progress.

I also feel we need more support groups in the UK which can be done on relatively small budgets as peer support is so useful. It seems we have to prove to commissioners that maternal mental health is a 'cost saving' exercise in the long run. I admit I got very frustrated and expressed my worry that as we were there planning more meetings that real people are suffering NOW and when will ACTION actually take place? The same message of needing a managed clinical network has been on the cards for years. PLEASE LET THE COMMISSIONERS HEAR OUR PLEA.

The dreadful irony was that as I was speaking a lady WAS going through hell in Manchester. Within hours the news broke that she had stabbed and killed her two babies.

That poor lady will have to face the fact she murdered her own children. Society will brandish her as evil. Yet in reality her mental state, I am assuming, gave her delusions and therefore unable to make rational thoughts. Once she 'recovers' she will have to face the awful consequences of her illness. How much more needless suffering and deaths due we have to hear of before someone takes notice??

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Mental Health Today

Today I attended an excellent exhibition called Mental Health Today, held at Manchester Central.

I listened to a very informative presentation about stress in the workplace and chatted to many exhibitors.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Warrington - King's Church presentation

Tonight I gave my talk to leaders and volunteers linked to King's Church, Warrington.

I stressed how my life had unraveled due to my puerperal psychosis but also how 'the church' had played its role in my journey. I was found on the steps of a church when I completely broke down and it was at the same church that I felt compelled to speak about my illness the first time. As they say .. the rest is history!

I gave the audience my tips on how to help sufferers and the impression I was given back was that they felt my story and ideas related to many other areas of suffering, not just postnatal problems. A couple of middle-aged men also commented to me that they could relate to my feelings from past times in their lives.

I hope I have sent the members away realising the importance and value of sometimes just 'being there' for people.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

PSA Convention - Day 2

Today the convention began in earnest with a useful session for those who wish to speak internationally. I was able to pass on my tip of being involved with UKTI as they have helped me to make the most of making contacts abroad.

We had a day of excellent speakers, fabulous food and plenty of networking.

The evening was fantastic with a dinner and amazing entertainment by Mike Rayburn - the world's funniest guitar virtuoso. Wow! AMAZING!

Posing with me is Richard McCann, another author and speaker - his mother was the first victim of the Yorkshire Ripper.

Friday, 7 November 2008

PSA Convention - day 1

The friendship and fun began immediately as many speakers descended upon the Marriott Forest of Arden hotel in the Midlands.
A great venue, with excellent service -

It was lovely to meet many familiar faces and some new ones from around the world.

At the convention last year I had the honour to meet W Mitchell (pictured) who gave me some excellent tips in become a better speaker. It was great to meet him again. Last time we met was at the United Nations dinner in New York.
Also pictured is Lesley Everett, the branding and image guru!

After a lively dinner we were entertained by 10cc. Wow!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

University of Surrey

This morning I had the pleasure of presenting my story and messages to students and professionals at the University of Surrey in Guildford.

What an impressive campus!

The presentation seemed to go well - judging by the amount of tears shed by the audience! One of the tutors commented that she felt my messages of good nursing techniques were far more effective and powerful coming from real experiences rather than text books.

My good friend John Hotowka gave us a speaking tip at Professional Speakers Association, to use a relevant prop as we speak. I tried this today (not telling what it was!) but I think it added an extra touch!

I would love to speak at more universities so let me know if have one to suggest!


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Professional Speakers Association NW

Tonight I attended the NW chapter meeting of the Professional Speakers Association. We heard Chris Davidson's superb presentation which he had delivered at the German PSA earlier this year about his new website and resources for speakers.
Have a look at

We also listened to 'Wheelchair Steve', the accessibility champion, who amazed us with some of his feats.

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday 2nd December.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Heather Stott Coffee Shop BBC Radio Manchester

Today I joined in with lively discussion on current news topics on the BBC Radio Manchester Heather Stott show. Fellow guests were Debbie Manley, Showbiz reporter of the year 2005.

and Thom Hetrherington from Moorfield Media.

Some of the topics we discussed were personal hygiene; OAPs who had been given a warning of an ASBO for being noisy on a bench and annoying habits of fellow passengers when you are travelling!