Monday, 29 November 2010

The Parental Mental Health and Child Welfare Network study day 6th December

I have been involved in these days in the past and they are worth attending!

The Parental Mental Health and Child Welfare Network is holding its 7th study day on Monday 6th December in partnership with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM), on 
Family Thinking: Keeping The Whole Picture In Mind Working With Families Affected By Parental Mental Ill-Health

*10 free places reserved for service users and carers*

**Draft Programme now available**

Sharing ideas and practice with others passionate about the needs of people in families – of all sizes and shapes – who have been affected by parental mental ill-health, can be an inspiring boost to us all.

To consider critically, government policy developments affecting working with families affected by parental mental ill-health. The day will include :

· News from the Department of Health’s Nurse Partnership Programme;

· Innovative thinking from John Burnham, Head of Family Services at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and renowned speaker and practitioner;

· The latest developments in sites supported by SCIE’s Think Child, Think Parent, Think Family implementation team;

· Personal experiences of caring for a parent with mental health issues from young carers supported by the Children’s Society.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity – places are going fast. Thanks to a contribution from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) we are able to keep our early bird price of £95 right up until the 6th December instead of charging £125 from the 11th of November as earlier advertised.

We look forward to seeing you on the 6th!

Tayo Richards

SPN Executive Officer  Social Perspectives Network   020 33971678    07949877111 

Elaine Hanzak 

Friday, 26 November 2010

Postnatal Illness - who knows where to refer to and what's on your wish list?

Last night I had the pleasure of presenting my story and suggestions on supporting families affected by postnatal illness to a wonderful group of midwives, nursery nurses and health visitors just outside Preston, Lancashire.

I was invited to speak by the very efficient  and the venue was amazing Ribby Hall. . The setting and food was great and the touch of hot chocolate and strawberries coated in chocolate just before I spoke was really special! I hope I get booked to speak there again and would recommend it as a venue.

It was a trip down memory lane for me as this was the area where I was born and I grew up on the Fylde Coast. I recalled happy Sunday afternoons feeding the ducks at Wrea Green village and was just sad that the timing was wrong to have some of my all-time favourite Bonds of Elswick ice cream. I was told it is still available! 40 years on and I can still taste it! Mmmm!

One special thing about the evening for me was meeting a lady who had read my book around 5 years ago when she was in the throws of extreme postnatal illness. She contacted to me some time later to say how it had given her hope and her family. Her daughter is now 5 and although we have emailed over the last few years we had never met until last night! I feel humbled and priviledged to help people but her story also inspires me to keep on doing what I do.

I was also thrilled to have two other trustees (I am one) of a new Foundation for maternal mental health in my audience. It was the first time they had heard me speak! Watch this space on the Foundation ....

I am always impressed by the dedication of the professionals attending these sessions. They are there because they care about the families they are dealing with. However, in chatting to some of them I was told that in some areas their postnatal support groups are being the first things being 'cut'. This is both shocking and very, very short-sighted as in the long run untreated and unsupported postnatal illness can lead to years of mental ill-health for members of the family; relationship breakdown; child protection issues and in extreme cases - deaths. If this is happening (cuts) in your area please can you let me know?

Another situation which I uncovered was that experienced and dedicated midwives DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THE WYTHENSHAWE MOTHER AND BABY UNIT!!!! This is a specialist unit on their doorstep and delivers excellent care. They admitted that if a lady presented with puerperal psychosis that they would not know whom to refer her to and because they are rushed off their feet, often they are even wary of asking how a newly delivered mother is feeling because if she answers negatively they haven't the time to do anything about it or how to help! I do not blame the midwives at all but 'the system' that is squeezing them so tightly. I have heard from many midwives who love their job but the pressures and reality that they are unable to be there for women as they should be is making them leave the profession. This is another scandal that has to be stopped.  Is it going to take the deaths of mothers and their babies before anything is done?

I am currently part of a group looking at improving maternal and infant mental health in the North West of England. I will do my utmost to represent the families in that area (and beyond) but I need to know some more details of what is or isn't happening out there and what you would like. Please leave comments here or email me at

Safe to assume I am angry and very, very concerned.

Elaine Hanzak

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Postnatal Depression Awareness Week - spread the word!

I have just received this message from Australia:-

During Postnatal Depression Awareness Week (14 - 20 November), beyondblue: the national depression initiative launched the Just Speak Up Campaign – a new awareness campaign aimed at pregnant women, new mothers, their partners and families.

Postnatal depression affects one in seven new mothers and up to one in 10 pregnant women experiences antenatal depression. Anxiety is likely to be even more common.

The Just Speak Up Campaign is the culmination of years of beyondblue research and evidence-gathering on the rates and risk factors associated with pre- and postnatal depression and anxiety – and the impact of not seeking help.

The campaign features TV, radio and print ads in which real people (not actors) talk candidly about their experiences of pre- and postnatal depression and anxiety, and how they got help. There is also a new website where their personal stories can be watched and people can upload their own stories.

There are many ways you can support the campaign:

Elaine Hanzak

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

'Just' Postnatal depression?

I'd like to share my day with you, if I may.

It started peacefully at my parents and I got myself ready to go to speak to 'Homestart' volunteers at St. Helen's - one of my regular sessions. Like many people I was then confronted by a frozen car; put my bags in the boot but then couldn't open the door! Last night I hadn't closed it properly and the damp air and ice rendered it immovable from the outside. Oh no! Dad wasn't around so I only had one option - crawl in via the boot!!! I smiled at the thought that if this had happened when I was suffering from 'just' postnatal depression, as some would say, I would have sobbed my heart out, punched the car or worse still. This morning I was just glad that I was wearing dark trousers and not a short skirt, clambered across the back seats and managed to push the door open, hoping no-one had witnessed my unladylike actions. Success. But then the ice wasn't clearing. No de-icer. Back in the house to get Mum and Dad's car keys - none in their car either. In getting their keys I walked muddy footprints on the hall floor. Aargh!  By this time the windows were clearing and as I had allowed extra time I wasn't in a panic. As I drove to St. Helens I reflected on these minor annoyances and again acknowledged that with a healthy mind and body you just take them in your stride. But for anyone suffering with 'just' a mental health problem these events could actually tip them over the edge. How do you cope with such things?

In years gone by I possibly would also have been convinced that a day that started so 'badly' would then go from bad to worse - I'd probably get stuck in traffic; the IT for my talk would fail; I would be late for my next meeting , etc. etc. In expecting the worse, it often happens. Instead I chose to laugh it off and decide that it could only get better - and it did. When did you allow a bad day to get worse?

I love speaking to Homestart volunteers. Through a network of nearly 16,000 trained parent volunteers we support thousands of parents who are struggling to cope. Our families need support for many reasons including post-natal illness, disability, bereavement, the illness of a parent or child, or social isolation. Parents supporting other parents - to help build a family's confidence and ability to cope.
Today was no exception.  One of the group actually had a daughter who went to school with Dom when he was little! Thank you to those who were brave and open to share some of their stories too. I hope I showed via my story that it's far from 'just' postnatal depression, but how severe the effects can be and the legacy it can leave behind.

Last night I caught up with a good friend of mine and it turned out that the company that she works for has just opened up an office in the exact building I was delivering to Homestart! So I called in to say a quick hello to  'Home Instead'  - Home Instead Senior Care provides award-winning home care to elderly people, allowing them to stay in their homes for as long as possible.
My Grandma suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and I know the impact that has on everyone concerned. I hope to meet up with them again soon.

From there I went to meet a wonderful lady called Sharon Hanner, who is part of 'A Quiet Place', which  provides evidence based, personal development programmes, supporting the achievement of unique outcomes for all ages and abilities. . A mutual friend, the amazing speaker Molly Harvey,, had suggested we meet. I am so pleased we did - thank you Molly! Sharon has kindly given me some of her materials - watch this space and I will tell you more! 

We met up at Nugent House school, where I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand a couple of 'A quiet place' rooms.  Nugent House School is part of Nugent Care, which is a multi-service agency, and one of the North West’s leading charities, caring for children, disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages. As a teacher for children with severe and profound learning difficulties my passion was around a multi-sensory curriculum. Now I suggest ways to improve and maintain good mental health is by appealing to and gratifying our senses. So this area is right up my street! I will report back more on these in the months ahead.

From there I met up with my little sis and gorgeous niece Sophie at M & S in Widnes

Then it was time for me to spend the evening with Dom. Since the divorce we try to see as much as possible of each other but I also really, really appreciate our time together even more. He is currently nursing an injury so I am in my element being able to 'fuss him' - as much as any 14 year old boy will allow! After taking him home I am now back at my parents reflecting on an amazing day, appreciating the wonderful people I have met and wondering what, if anything, it will all lead to.

Then I caught up with Facebook and received the link to this sad, sad, story.
My heart goes out to Katy and her family. We were only talking this morning about how your mind can be so 'irrational' that such actions seem acceptable and the right thing to do. Only when we are mentally fit and well do we realise what an awful situation this is. One day Katy will be 'better' than she is right now but she must live with the fact that she took her son's life. Sadly others will judge her badly for it. I only have sympathy and empathy. I know how 'screwed' your mind can get when you 'just' have postnatal depression. If only we could 'pull ourselves together', as those who are ignorant about the illness will flippantly say.

It disturbs me that 'cuts' may consider postnatal illness support, training and treatment to be a 'luxury' and something that isn't necessary. It sadly is too late for Katy and her family. PLEASE LET US KEEP WORKING TO ENSURE THAT SUCH THINGS DO NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.

So spare a thought, in this PND Awareness week, for those families that are affected by a mother or father suffering in the postnatal period. There is no 'just' about this illness. It is not due to them being lazy, a failure or overreacting to everyday hiccups like I had this morning. It is a real, and potentially fatal illness for some. It MUST be treated and prevented as much as is humanly possible.

Here is another feature on puerperal psychosis and PND this week in the Daily Mail - I get a mention.  

Elaine Hanzak

Monday, 15 November 2010

Northwest Perinatal Mental Health Network 1st December

If you are a health professional you may be interested in attending this session:-


Quarterly Educational Meeting   Wednesday 1st December 2010, 09.30-12.30

The Education Resource Centre (ERC), Wythenshawe Hospital, Southmoor Road, Manchester, M23 9LT

 “Bonding with Baby: a pilot parent/infant intervention in Liverpool”

Dr Jenny Davies, Clinical Psychologist, Working Together, Alder Hey (CAMHS).

  “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome”

Dr Lydia Bowden, Consultant Paediatrician, Wythenshawe Hospital.

  “Case presentation and discussion”

Andersen Mother and Baby Unit, Wythenshawe Hospital

Speaker to be announced

These are multidisciplinary meetings. We welcome attendance from all professionals with an interest in the care of women experiencing mental illness during pregnancy and the postpartum period. The meeting is free.

If you would like to attend please reply to:

Miss Donna Jones, Secretary to Dr Angelika Wieck

Email: Telephone: 0161 2916930 

These meetings are also a good opportunity to network with other interested people.

Elaine Hanzak

Friday, 12 November 2010

Congratulations to the Wellbeing Project

Earlier this year Ann Girling and I were pleased to deliver a couple of day workshops for antenatal education to mothers in the Halton and St. Helens areas of the NW of England as part of the Wellbeing Project.

The Wellbeing Project Community Interest Company was set up in 2006  in Halton and St Helens. They provide a range of community based  activities for everyone who would like to improve their mental wellbeing. 

Here is the press release about their awards!

NHS North West Trust triumph at regional award ceremony

 The success of the NHS Halton and St Helens Wellbeing Project was recognised at this years Health and Social Care Awards, which took place online on Thursday 14th October. The Wellbeing Project CIC came top of the Mental Health and Wellbeing category, with its innovative ‘Ignite Your Life!’ community resilience programme.The unique scheme equips the general public and people working in  the customer service professions with the skills to support their  neighbours and colleagues experiencing low level mental health issues. It has invited the general public to a number of events that teach people useful and practical skills and techniques to stay resilient during difficult times and educates people about the  signs and symptoms of common mental health problems like depression and anxiety and how and when to seek help.
The scheme, which is co-directed by Dr Laura Pogue and Paula Gamester, also teaches people about the simple things anybody can do to improve their mental wellbeing, with a focus on the ‘5 Ways  to Wellbeing’ informed by the Foresight’s Report on Mental  Capital and Wellbeing.
The excellent work carried out by the Wellbeing Project will now gain some well-deserved recognition for their hard work at the national Health and Social Care Awards at a ceremony on 18th November, after being selected by the national panel of judges.
Commenting on the standards set this year, Dean Royles, NHS North West Director of Workforce and HR said, ‘The regional awards highlight and celebrate the excellent and innovative work of teams from PCTs, trusts and voluntary and third sector teams across the region, who have made a big difference to the lives of the people they care for. We were really impressed with the project and how it has real impact on the quality of people’s lives and drives meaningful improvements in people’s mental health and wellbeing.’

Mark Swift, Founder and Programme Manager for the Wellbeing Project said ‘The Ignite Your Life' Community Resilience Programme 'teaches every day people the practical skills to stay strong during difficult times.’
‘The programme places emphasis on the innate skills and talents of individuals, and the assets within our communities and the ways in which we can mobilise these to improve the quality of people's lives.’
‘We are delighted that the scheme has been selected to go on to be recognised at a national level and that we have been given the opportunity to have our hard work celebrated at such a prestigious event.’

 For more information about the scheme please contact Mark Swift,  Programme Manager, Wellbeing Project T: 01744 26444 E:
For more information about the Health and Social Care Awards 2010 please visit

Elaine Hanzak

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

10 Biggest Pregnancy Myths Debunked

As a pregnant lady I remember devouring all the magazines, books, articles about the 'do's and don'ts' around pregnancy and the birth. I got caught up in the 'better not', 'can't, mustn't, won't' world of caution and probably was a doom merchant in the process! My desire for everything to be perfect and for me to be the perfect mother during the pregnancy and beyond was massive. Maybe this added to the postnatal depression that developed? Was part of it because the reality didn't match my expectations? Maybe regardless of all the caution and urge to 'do the right thing' backfired? I am not saying that you should throw caution to the wind and just be reckless and impulsive, but maybe a more relaxed approach might be better for everyone? Be kinder to yourself.

You may find this blog at interesting to help ease some worries. 

I think we are pushed towards being prepared for the birth but very little to prepare for the huge emotional changes that happen.

I know I have mentioned this book before but I loved it! Lynn Bertrams' 'Supporting Postnatal Women in Early Motherhood' has some great ideas for topics and discussions to help new mothers acknowledge some of these changes.

Meanwhile I am excited at being Auntie tomorrow night to Sophie, now 8 months, and babysitting whilst her parents and mine go to see 'Blood Brothers' at Liverpool. Those of you who have read my book will realise the significance of this! Sophie is now at the age Dominic was when I was so ill. Spending time with her and seeing that delightful bond she has with her mother is bitter sweet for me because I am thrilled for them but it saddens me that I missed out on the magic of that stage.

It also keeps the fire and passion in me to continue to make early parenthood happier for others.

Elaine Hanzak

Friday, 5 November 2010

Come along to Warrington on November 13th for treatments and bargains!

If you are in the NW of England please come along to a Wellbeing Day at Warrington.

Full details are here:

I will also be having a stall there that day with my book on sale but also the last couple of boxes of products from my days as a Virgin Vie (now Vie at Home) consultant. I have plenty of jewellery and cosmetics for sale at give-away prices, so come and stock up for Christmas!

Come and say hello!

Elaine Hanzak

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Do you know any Children's Centres who need training around postnatal illness?

Do you know any other Children's Centres who need training around postnatal illness? Please let me know if you do.

Just wanted to share the feedback Ann Girling and I received from our last workshop with Children's Centre professionals and parents. Needless to say we are delighted with it!

Postnatal Depression Symposium
30th September 2010 at Brackenhale Open Learning Centre
(organised by the Rowans and Sycamores Children’s Centres)
for professionals and families

Are you a parent or a professional and if so what is your profession?
“Both – I work as a family outreach support worker for Action for Children” (3)
“Both – children’s centre admin”
“Both – family support worker” (3)
 “Parent, aspiring life coach – want to dedicate my life to helping other mums”
“NCT ante-natal teacher, also teach baby massage and baby yoga”
“Parent and mental heath nurse”
“Parent” (3)
“Family Outreach Support Worker” (4)
“Parent and toddler development officer”
“Parent of 2 and a children’s centre manager”
“Early Years Development officer”
“Volunteer at Children’s Centre”
“Reception teacher”
“Senior organiser Homestart Bracknell” (2)
“Project worker and parent to 3 grown children”
“Project worker” (2)
“Parent and assistant project worker”
“Assistant project worker”
“Workforce development officer”
“Senior Nursery Manager”

How did you hear about the session?
“Through Louise Clark the Rowans centre manager” (7)
“Email from the Rowans centre Bracknell” (13)
“Through Talking Therapies Bracknell” (2)
“Colleague” (5)
“From my children’s centre” (2)
“From family support advisor”
“My mum works for BFC council”

What are your reasons for attending the session?
“Professionally – to be able to help others. But also personally – I have realised
a number of things throughout the session ring true with myself”
“Open to learn anything related to parenting and meet the workshop leaders”
“To increase my awareness”
“Interest in women’s health on PND – [I’m] on a PND working group with Talking
Therapies [and] personal interest”
“Suffered previously – possibly still do”
“To improve my practice in my role”
“Work with new parents and young parents and run bumps and babes group”
“To gain more knowledge of PND and how to support sufferers” (14)
“Personally wanted more info on PND as I didn’t have any” (sic)
“To help a friend”
“To gain insight into such a significant issue affecting mothers and their families”
“Interest, to help parents in our centres”
“I’ve never had any training on this subject and thought it would be useful as I work
with baby groups and new mums”
“I work with many parents with PND and I wanted a greater understanding of it”
“As a professional, work role and grandparent”
“Personal interest as suffered from postnatal depression and hoped to pass on
experience to professionals and other parents”
“Wanted to be informed as there is PND in my family”

What (if any) knowledge and understanding did you have of postnatal
“Some – I help mothers who are depressed to talk about how they feeling”
“It can happen to anybody – it is curable – may be prevented too”
“That it’s an illness and can affect anyone”
“I’ve worked with many women with PND and experienced postnatal depression myself!”
“Some – suffered slightly myself after miscarriage”
“I have had postnatal depression”
“Best friend been through it and wanted to see what I could do to help”
“I remember my mother struggling with it for years and her being sectioned for months on
“Sister suffered with it but didn’t know much about it”
“Only from personal experience”
“Experienced it in the family”
“I suffered but have never researched it professionally”
“Fair knowledge from internet research” (2)
“General statistics, health visitors check”
“Some via literature and talking to others who have experienced it”
“A small amount regarding postnatal depression”
“Basic understanding gained through talking with parents and friends who have experienced it”
“Limited knowledge from speaking to others and reading. No specific training”
“None” (2)
“Very little” (5)
“Quite a lot” (2)
“Some – related to Solihull Approach attachment effects etc”
“Knew it was depression suffered by women after childbirth”
“Not enough – but now I have attended the workshop I know a lot more”

What have you learned that you didn’t know before the session?
“That PND can be so well hidden – and that I probably suffered myself. That it is so hard to
spot and realise you may have it yourself”
“Found out about interesting books, resources and ways for support”
“That the symptoms can vary by individuals”
“The legacy of postnatal depression”
“Not so much that I didn’t know, but that the symptoms are not uncommon”
“How easy it is to go without being diagnosed or even noticed”
“The support I’m offering does make a difference”
“How your actions as a professional impact on families – gaining insight into the illness”
“How important recognition and interaction is to prevent long term mental health problems that
stem from undiagnosed/ untreated PND”
“New support strategies”
“What PND is and how it affects people - also that I need to give myself ‘me time!’”
“Signs of depression – feelings a person suffering from depression has – some ways to help” (2)
“Looking after self – daring to ask the ‘big’ question”
“From Elaine and Anne that there is a major light at the end of the tunnel – if
support and understanding is given to PND [sufferers]”
“Prevalence and diversity [of the condition] in GB”
“That men get postnatal depression too – about 25%. I have learnt more about the
symptoms – especially the high flyers” (2)
“Reasons/ situations that could lead to postnatal depression. How best to help people suffering”
“I can’t fix it I can only listen”
“Made me more aware of the severity… percentage of women suffering”
“Not to just take ‘fine’ as an answer – looking beyond the obvious signs” (4)
“Listen” (3)
“Proper acknowledgement of PND by professionals. Also how we still need to skill-up the
workforce in this area”
“That PND can equal nervous energy not just moping”

Do you feel more confident at spotting the symptoms of postnatal depression?
“I do – and more able to not want to try and practically do things for parents – that listening
may be all that is needed”
“Yes” (28)
“Yes and how to refer on”
“Probably the same”

Do you feel more confident that you would be able to offer some support to someone suffering with postnatal depression, or be able to signpost them to the correct help?
“Yes” (29)
“Yes it will be useful for my role as a Homestart volunteer, friend of a mum who has PND,
want to start a local support group”
“Happy to listen and support [parents] myself, or to signpost if beyond my ability”
“Yes – in my role will look at putting on more training in this area so watch this space!”

How would you rate the speakers?

Excellent (25)                Good                Fair                   Poor                 Very poor

How would you rate the session as a whole?

Excellent (24)                Good    (1)        Fair                   Poor                 Very poor

Is there anything that you feel could be improved about the session?
“More time – although we were given resources to look at and print off – which is probably
“Make it longer”
“It would have been helpful at the beginning of the session or in the small groups to find
out who was in the group”
“Make it longer – full day” (2)
“No” (8)
“Longer? Could include case studies to help spot the clues”
“From a personal view I love statistics but I can get those from books!”

Any other comments?
“Personal stories and picture presentation I felt was so much more positive than power points”
“Thank you for your work – you make a difference”
“Thank you so much for sharing your stories. I found the session very interesting and inspiring” (2)
“Very interesting, informative and moving”
“Excellent workshop both personally and professionally given knowledge and support”
“Very informative – thanks” (3)
“Thank you – you have opened my eyes” (2)
“More info about your charity and its progress – Are there voluntary postnatal depression councillors? If so can you signpost courses?”
“This will help with other people that suffer from depression too”
“Very inspirational”

Thank you for taking the time to complete this questionnaire.

 Elaine Hanzak