Thursday, 25 June 2009

Amazing 'Think Family' Day! Including pets!

Every now and then I am privileged to be part of an event which stands out from the rest. The ‘Think Family’ conference held today by West London Mental Health trust (Hounslow) was one of those!

The venue at St. George’s suite, Twickenham stadium was impressive to start with and I have never seen an event fill up so early! There were around 100 health professionals and students from across the area.

Dr Alice Parshall, the Clinical Director for Hounslow Service Delivery Unit (SDU), very impressively chaired the day, keeping us to time schedule almost to the second, with some of the best summing up after presentations I have ever heard! Her passion for getting services to work together and being aware that a person with a mental health problem has a family that is crucial to their care and recovery is an approach I would love to see nationally.

First speaker was the wonderful Dr Ian Banks who is a part-time GP, A & E doctor in Belfast but also the president of the European Men’s Health forum and medical journalist amongst other things. He effectively delivered a range of statistics showing the vast differences in gender differences around life expectancy and illnesses. There are 3,000 male suicides a year in the UK - a bigger killer than testicular cancer. Dr Banks suggested one theory of the reluctance by some men to go to the GPs was the female 'barrier's, e.g. receptionist, pharmacy staff.
He also quoted research by Madsen and Juhl (2007) which showed from a study of 607 new fathers 6.5% suffered from 'postnatal' depression but the feeling is that many more go undetected. His belief is that men need health issues presented in a more mechanical, lateral format rather than ‘holistic’. Consequently he has written some great books for men in the car manual format! Have a look at the excellent site

I gave my presentation but with the focus today on the effects of my illness on my family and gave some suggestions on how we can make services better for others.

After lunch was a very powerful presentation by Louise Wardale from Barnardo’s in Liverpool. I have admired Louise and the work she has done for several years and today was no exception. She showed a stunning DVD called ‘Telling it like it is’ which conveys what it feels like to be a young carer for a parent with mental health needs. Then the Splinter group of amazing youngsters from Liverpool who are all members of the Barnardo’s Action with Young Carers, gave a drama presentation of the issues affecting them. Stimulating stuff showing how we all need to feel safe, wanted and loved! I cannot recommend the work Louise and her team have done enough – especially their ‘Keeping the Family in Mind’ resource pack. See

I loved Louise's message from the youngsters that
'By listening you may be able to understand.
By understanding you may be able to help'.

Next we heard from Sarah Ghani, a Consultant Psychologist and Clinical Lead for Older people’s Services – she spoke about ‘Too old to help? Involving Older family members’. She effectively reminded us of the powerful resource they can be yet are often undervalued for their skills, knowledge and experience. It reminded me that we had done this with my grandparents when I was so poorly. The tendency is to want to protect the older family members yet they can offer great support. I had felt I did not want to upset my Grandma and I know I put an act on when I was with her! Maybe I should have been much more open with her? Mum and I miss her terribly these days, especially when we have a crisis – Mum always says her mother worried over incidental issues but had words of wisdom for big issues.

Very often the last session of a conference is thin on the ground for attendance as people slope off after coffee – not today. The final presentation was given by Graham Crennell (Head of Governance and Risk at Hounslow SDU) and Donna Sloss (Senior Nurse Clinical Lead for Treatment and Emergency Psychiatry). The subject – Home, Pets, the Family and Mental Well-being’. Fabulous!
They showed how important pets are to us humans showing us affection, giving us a purpose to get up, to exercise, etc. Research from America demonstrates how using pets with people with mental health problems can have a significant effect on recovery. A powereful and cheap way to help people – bring it on I say!

The only problem I had was making the assumption that Travelodge would have a hairdryer and an ironing board – oops! Arriving very late due to trains, road works, etc. meant they had all gone! My learning point for my travels in future!!
Other than that the whole event was a joy to be part of and I had one of the most informative and useful days I have had in a long while.

Dr Parshall and her team have a great deal to be proud of and I shall be pointing other areas to them as an example of good practice.

Thank you Suzanne and Jane for asking me to be part of such a wonderful event!


Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Are you FINE? NW LSA supervisors

Today I had a good day at ‘Perinatal Mental Health – the whole story’ run by the North West Local Supervising Authority for supervisors of midwives.

It was held at the Holiday Inn at Haydock.

The day was chaired by Lisa Bacon who is the Head of Maternal , Child and Social Care Division at the University of Manchester and NW LSA Link Supervisor of Midwives. I was stunned at how she knew all almost 100 delegates by name, as evidenced at question times! Very impressive!

The day began with Professor Maggie Pearson, from the University of Lancashire who reported her findings on current data and the plans for perinatal mental health networks in the NW. We are still grossly under-funded on these services, e.g. at least 16 specialist beds short in the NW and a huge shortage of specialist staff across the region. On the positive side there is shortly going to be a seconded placement available to develop services and little by little progress is being made – although not as fast as we might like!

Next was me! I was delighted when one midwife reminded me after my presentation that I had missed out my tip about people who say they are ‘Fine’ – she had heard me speak last year. I believe we use this as a standard reply in our society to the basic greeting of ‘hello, how are you’. Saying ‘fine’ is quick and easy and generally we don’t want to know how someone’s bunions are! However, when it comes to asking a postnatal lady how she is ‘fine’ can be an avoidance retort. One Mum told me it stands for ‘I’m f***** up, insecure, neurotic and emotional’! My suggestion to professionals is if they get the reply of ‘fine’ but they instinctively feel they are not, to push a little further by maybe placing a hand gently on theirs, give them eye contact and ask ‘but are you really?’ Often this is all Mums need to open the flood gates to their true status. The midwife who reminded of it has used this technique many times effectively she told me. Thank you Ann! We got it fitted in during the question section to tell everyone else! I find feedback like this so powerful and drives me on!

Carla Mobear and Michelle Greenwood then gave us all an insight into the work they do at the Andersen Ward at Wythenshawe hospital – our NW mother and baby unit. They used two case studies to show some of the severe illnesses they have to deal with and the complex issues involving many other agencies across the region.

After lunch Professor Margaret Oates delivered her presentation in her usual impressive manner with plenty of information (and humour) around the CEMACH reports on Saving Mothers Lives/Why Mothers die.

Following this Kim Gibbon showed how the Wirral have developed their perinatal networks and services over the last few years.

Finally Deborah Forrest, a midwife with special interest in mental health talked about ‘The History Girls – how a mental health history helps’.

A well-planned and useful day! Well done to Marian Drazek and her team.

Thank you for asking me to participate!


Friday, 19 June 2009

Liverpool Chamber of Commerce - 60 Really useful Minutes

Today I presented '60 really useful minutes' to members of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce.

The invitation read

With all the doom and gloom around us in the current economic climate do you need a boost to your outlook? Are you feeling like a hamster in a wheel that daren’t or can’t get out of it?
1 in 4 of us are likely to suffer a mental health problem which requires treatment at some point in our adult life. Look around at your friends and colleagues – if they appear okay then could it be you?!
Do you know what to look out for and what to do to help yourself or others?
I will share some really useful tips to identify the dangers of ignoring symptoms of stress and
give members a tool-kit to encourage positive mental health and well-being.
Happy and healthy businesses will be the ones to go from strength to strength, so come along and spend 60 Really Useful Minutes to increase your chances of being one!

I learnt something really useful - not all PC's are compatible with Windows Vista and just before I was due to start had to do a dash back to my car for my laptop! After what my son Dominic would call a 'run like a woman' in high heels on cobbles, I got started a few minutes later than anticipated. I learnt early on in my speaking career not to assume that IT works and always have a back-up, but today's learning point for me was not to leave it in the car!

Feedback after the session was that I related my mental illness well to parallels with business - having a baby was the catalyst to my mental illness and I asked the audience 'What is yours?'

From the nodding of heads I touched nerves when I outlined some of the signs and symptoms to look out for!

Chamber staff feel my message needs to be heard by many in business as the warnings to look after our mental health are very relevant today.

It was an new angle for me to relate my story and lessons to be learnt from it for the purpose of a business audience - I hope those present left realising the need to be kind to themselves!


Thursday, 18 June 2009

Mums in Lincoln! You have a PND support group!

I am delighted to hear that Lincoln MIND group has set up a support group for Mums affected by postnatal illness.

Have a look at their details here

I wish them every success with it and am sure it will help many!


Are you interested in PROMS?

If you are involved in the health professions you may be interested in two forthcoming conferences.

Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs)
Date: Wednesday 8th July 2009
Venue: Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester
This one day conference provides a practical guide to measuring and monitoring clinical outcomes using PROMs. You will hear how practitioners are leading the way in using PROMs from involving patients and service users in outcome measurement, using generic and disease specific PROMs in practice to support decision making and improve the outcomes information given to patients and integrating clinical and patient reported outcomes in clinical practice.
Contact: For more information please call Hanisha on 020 8541 1399, email or visit
Download Brochure:

Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs)
Date: Wednesday 14th October 2009
Venue: 4 Hamilton Place, London
This one day conference provides a practical guide to measuring and monitoring clinical outcomes using PROMs. You will hear how practitioners are leading the way in using PROMs including involving patients and service users in outcome measurement, commissioning and rewarding on the basis of PROMs results and using generic and disease specific PROMs in practice to support decision making and improve the outcomes information given to patients.
Contact: For more information please call Hanisha on 020 8541 1399, email or visit
Download Brochure:


News from Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Mental Health

I have been informed about the Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Mental Health by Jill at Mental Health in Higher Education.

The Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Mental Health (CEIMH) is one of 74 Centres selected for funding by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Its overall aim is to promote excellence, innovation and creativity in the delivery of interdisciplinary mental health teaching and learning. Central to the CEIMH's philosophy is the promotion of service user and carer involvement, together with an emphasis on collaboratively creating multimedia teaching and learning resources to enhance interdisciplinary mental health education and training.

Have a look around their website at

Join their mailing list for useful additions to your work, especially if you are involved in teaching about mental health.

If you do nothing else today watch this film and the day will not have been wasted. Wow!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Mothers Apart from Their Children (MATCH) AGM

Today I felt honoured to be in a room full of amazing women at MATCH (mothers apart from their children) 30th anniversary AGM.

It is a volunteer support network of mothers who have been separated from their children by a variety of circumstances. On their website you will find contact information, aims and links.

I first was made aware of MATCH by a lady whose children had been taken from her due to a mental illness in the postnatal period. It seems she is not alone! I offered MATCH my support with ideas of improving mental health. Little did I know that I too would become a mother apart from my child due to my separation from my husband. My new career as a speaker takes me travelling and it is easier for my son to stay with his father and it is me who has to come to terms with not seeing him on a daily basis. It was good today to be with other women who also are the receiving end of judgement by some members of society who may consider us as being ‘unnatural, wicked, selfish, unfeeling, must-have-abused them’ and other such stigmas!

Every single mother there has been parted from their child, whether 12 months old or 54 years old, for some sad reason. Often marriage breakdown or due to decisions made by others. Many describe it as a ‘living bereavement’. Many stories are truly heartbreaking.

I know the pain of standing at the check-out of a supermarket and seeing something that you would normally get for your child – but there is no point as you will not be seeing them.
Today we shared stories; low points; experiences but best of all was the general warmth, love and support that filled the room. Tears and laughter were shared along with hints and tips of ways to cope. It is obvious that MATCH has quite simply been a life saver for many. When I discovered other ladies had been through the hell of puerperal psychosis I found strength and support through them – in the same way this is why I keep up with this blog and my website. Likewise when ladies find MATCH the strength from not feeling alone or a freak is huge.

Penny Cross as the outgoing Chair did an excellent job in keeping us quiet when needed! She made us laugh telling us that first thing this morning she had been hanging around outside the building to welcome any nervous-looking ladies for the meeting. As one walked closer Penny seemed to recognise her so politely asked if she was looking for MATCH. It seemed not – it was Carol Thatcher!

One of the new co-chairs is Sarah Hart, author of A Mother Apart.
Have a look at her website and blog too – a lovely lady!

I must also mention the venue – we met at the Diana Memorial Fund premises in County Hall, right by the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. Great location and it was free of charge – if you are in the voluntary sector see here if you meet their criteria.

At the end of the afternoon we had a raffle for which we had all taken a small item. Also a lucky dip of cards/letter/poems/ideas of things which had helped us a members. Lovely ideas!

Listening to other stories today I felt very humbled and extremely lucky in comparison to many there. Yet no-one told their story to out-do another and all offered mutual support.

The overall feeling was positive; that things change and that you can learn to move on with a different life apart from your child – but the love for them and the pain of separation is one that doesn’t go. Grandparents, parental alienation (when one parents ‘poisons’ the child against the other) and the need for the group were all stressed.

Long may MATCH continue and I for one shall offer my continued support.


Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Do you believe that postnatal illness affects dads? Have you been affected?

Postnatal depression in Dads?

Recently there were two articles about fathers who suffered mental health issues, guilt, lack of bonding following the birth of their children and wish to speak out about it.

I believe that there is such a thing as postnatal illness for men - it happens to be mental health problems in the postnatal period. For the new father even attending the birth can be traumatic. I know Nick felt totally powerless and out of control when I gave birth to our son. I know our experience could be described as a 'traumatic birth' due to complications but for any guy who doesn't even like going to a doctor's surgery to be flung in the midst of a surgical theatre and expected to smile, it is verging on the ridiculous! Mothers are lucky if they get debriefed after the birth so there is no chance for the fathers! Within hours the mother is back home and Dad is expected to be the perfect father, husband/partner, host, secretary, cook, cleaner, laundryman. Oh yes - and be ecstatic and fit in a pint or two with the lads down the pub and go back to work in a day or two. Did I mention being woken every few hours too?

I have every sympathy for the dads but my plea is the same as mums - DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE. Read the articles and books suggested above. Talk to them or other people in your support network. Time, patience, support and a baby who will start to 'give back' will all improve the situation.

When I spoke in Australia last year at the Marce conference I listened to Timothy O'Leary from Frances Perry House, Melbourne, talking about his 'Father's Time Program'.
Fathers in these groups are encouraged to be positively anchored during times of stress - a frank, open discussion about these issues leaves pre-natal fathers feeling much more purposeful about their transition to parenthood than simply encouraging fathers to 'get involved'.

We need more of this education in the UK. let me know if you have come across any!

Thank you to my colleague from Professional Speakers Association, Ali Turnbull for telling me about these articles. See her website at


Monday, 8 June 2009

Sleep deprivation was one of the biggest causes of my postnatal illness! For ideas watch

Sunday, 7 June 2009

I have some clips on You Tube
Let me know what you think!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Making Love Work: Mental Health and Relationships

A mental health problem often puts a strain on relationships and those involved need information and support to get through it successfully. I have been given information about this webinar via Facebook which may be of interest.

Subject: Making Love Work: Mental Health and Relationships featuring Terry Real

Date: June 8, 2009
Time: 1:00-2:00 PM, EST

This FREE webinar featuring Terry Real, best-selling author and family therapist helps you build successful relationships, especially when caring for a partner who has depression. Terry will discuss how to recognize why you don't get what you want in a relationship and provide strategies for how to turn the challenge of depression into an opportunity to strengthen your relationship.

Terry Real is the bestselling author of I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression; How Can I Get Through to You: Reconnecting Men and Women; and most recently The New Rules of Marriage: a Breakthrough Program for 21st Century Relationships. He has been a practicing family therapist for more than twenty years and has lectured and given workshops across the country.

Terry has been featured most recently on NBC Nightly News, Today, Good Morning America, the CBS Early Show and Oprah, as well as in The New York Times, Psychology Today, Esquire, and numerous academic publications.



Thursday, 4 June 2009

Don't leave things in your car overnight!

This morning I was a guest on Heather Stott's coffee club on BBC Radio Manchester.

My fellow guests were Maxine Muzzlewhite who is director of a woman's online magazine at and Andy Kelly, known to his friends as 'Andy on the telly' due his appearance on 34 different TV quiz shows! Look out for him on 'Who wants to be a millionaire' on 20th June.
Some of the topics from the daily newspapers we chatted about included being sent to jail for being a litter lout; getting married in space; drink driving and being burgled.
The latter topic reminded me of when Nick, Dominic and I drove down to Cornwall for a holiday. Enroute we stayed overnight at the Travelodge at Bristol. Foolishly we left everything in the back of our estate car apart from overnight things in the lit car park under the hotel. Next morning we discovered the back window smashed, many of our possessions thrown all over the floor and several bags missing. Dominic was distraught to see his toys scattered all over. Then we realised that in one of the missing bags was a totally irreplaceable item. 'Mum! The diary!' Dom howled. Every night since he had been born part of bedtime routine was 'to do the diary'. 'Eyes without Sparkle' could not have been written without it.
When Dom was 5 we bought a second 5 year diary and the nightly routine continued. We had thought one day it would be useful for book 2. But four years of our family history had just gone. Clothes can be replaced but that diary was so very special. We put pleas out on radio and in the local press but the diary was never returned. The police said that it was all probably stolen to be sold to fund drug habits. But to a very sad 9 year old that meant nothing. He has never written a diary since. He lost heart - who can blame him? Since then I never leave anything in my car!

All of us then sponsored Heather who is doing the Race for Life run on Sunday for cancer research. Go girl!

I am shortly having an interview with a journalist about pregnancy brain or baby brain drain! Have you been affected by it?
Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

We need midwives!I have received this message from Elaine Bielby - can you help?

Booktrust is an independent charity dedicated to encouraging people of all ages and cultures to engage with books. The written word underpins all our activity and enables us to fulfill our vision of inspiring a lifelong love of books for all.

Booktrust provides the gift of free books and guidance materials; our Bookstart programme reaches directly into the homes of babies, toddlers and young children up to the age of three. This is followed by Booktime as they start primary school and by Booked Up which is aimed at eleven year olds just as they begin secondary school. The free book programmes are funded by the Dept of Children Schools and Families, the devolved administrations and are generously sponsored by children's publishers

Booktrust free book programmes give every family the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of sharing stories songs and rhymes and also help to develop parental bonding, family cohesion, and positive attitudes to school.

We are at the early stages of developing a special maternity pack to be used with vulnerable mums and would like to invite your input: the aim of the new maternity pack will be to support mothers and fathers to bond with their baby whilst in utero. I am particularly keen for any midwifes to contact me with examples of current activity in promoting bonding antenatally and any props you may be using for example rhymes, or books.
Please contact me Elaine Bielby Booktrust National Development Manager - Health Partnerships Tel: 01522 804584 or Mobile 07826937473 or email

Many thanks!


PSA, LinkedIn and Passion!!

Last night I had the great pleasure of chairing the Professional Speaker's Association NW meeting held at the excellent City Inn, Manchester.

It was great to have some familiar faces but also some brand new guests who seemed very keen to join us.

Our first speaker was the excellent Will Kintish. I met Will a few years ago as a naive and dreadful 'networker' at a seminar he was giving at The Heath in Runcorn. He used me as his stooge on the stage and a friendship was formed which has grown over the years. It was Will who introduced me to the PSA, which in turn has been a huge part in changing my life!

As a former accountant who has become the guru of networking he has now used his skills for 'online' purposes and is now delivering training on using LinkedIn.

As soon as Will began we were all amazed by some of the 'obvious but we missed them' features of LinkedIn. Did you know you can link it to your Outlook for example, and a button will appear on emails so you can see if the sender is on LinkedIn?

For this and more great uses get in touch with Will and I highly recommend any course he does!
Incidentally he is the very proud Dad of his soon to be famous popstar son Mike who is a member of the Yeah Yous.
Get them booked for the PSA convention Will!

Next we had the unforgettable style of presenting from Chris Davidson. I love the way he speaks and could listen to him for hours! I would love him to read a story to me as he would make it so alive! I asked Chris to share some of his skills on presenting. These included adding value, being persuasion and adding passion so your audience take action. Chris gave me some mentoring to help my presentational skills and encouraged me to braver than I ever dreamed I could be. If you are serious about speaking have a look at

The evening was another one with PSA where I left feeling I had been patted on the head for things I am doing right as a speaker but kicked up the bottom for what I can improve on!

Thank you so much guys!

Next meeting is on 7th July where current PSA national President Roger Harrop will be speaking.

Got to go and get busy on LinkedIn now!


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

As an 'expert by experience' on postnatal illness I endeavour to keep up to date with useful resources around the subject, to expand my knowledge and to pass on to others.

I have just justified being out in the sunshine all morning by reading 'When Baby Brings the Blues' by Dr Ariel Dalfen.

This book is aimed at sufferers and their families affected by postpartum depression - yes, it is American, but readily is applicable to the UK, apart from some of the health professional systems.

It aims to give sufferers a treatment plan to follow. I was very impressed with the evidence-based content but I feel it may be 'too heavy' for those who are severely ill. However for those maybe facing a second pregnancy or just starting to become poorly or in recovery I would recommend it.

I also think health professionals would find it useful too and shall be recommending it.

I discovered a condition know as the baby pinks! As opposed to the baby blues this is postpartum mania when mothers can seem euphoric. I associated with this.

In hindsight I recognised 'me' in there and got quiet angry at times, scaring the birds in the garden with shouts of 'why did no-one tell me?'.
It seems I had many of the risk factors - a poorly pregnancy, a perfectionist nature, complicated birth, stressful events, a colicky baby.
All these were stacked up against me and then with sleep deprivation thrown in on top - I can see now where my signs and symptoms of postnatal illness began to take hold.
I wish I had been given this book then to read - especially Chapter 4 which gives some excellent points on self-help, ranging from how to think more positively, combating anxiety, managing expectations, stop trying to please and ways to get more sleep.
There are chapters on professional help, a good guide to medication, weaving a web of support (emotional, practical, information and advice) plus specific pointers on the relationship with the partner/husband. No-one ever gave Nick and I advice and in hindsight perhaps if we had been shown how to communicate with each other properly then maybe we would still be together. Wallpapering over the cracks doesn't work and just getting on practically is important but doesn't help the deeper issues.
There is a great resource list (mainly USA and Canada) but a very wide bibliography for all the evidence based research. I know the book is aimed at sufferers but from a professional point of view I would have found it useful if this excellent list could have been referenced within the text. But for students looking for a data base of research articles - go for it!

One of Dr Dalfen's suggestions is also to make time for yourself and not to feel guilty - so I am off back out in the garden with a diet coke after I have posted this!!