VIDEO: The life-changing work of Buckinghamshire Perinatal Mental Health Service

Ahead of Work Mental Health Day on Oct 10 - find out how Buckinghamshire Perinatal Mental Health Service is making a real difference to people's lives now - and in the future.

VIDEO: The life-changing work of Buckinghamshire Perinatal Mental Health Service

At our Annual Members Meeting and Annual General Meeting this year we heard from Buckinghamshire Perinatal Mental Health Service.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Our specialist service working with women from conception right through to baby’s first birthday.

One in ten women will experience a mental health disorder during the perinatal period and suicide is the leading cause of death. Untreated, perinatal mental illness can have a really long-term impact on mothers, babies and the whole family going forward so the early intervention offered by Buckinghamshire Perinatal Mental Health Service can make a real difference. Mental ill health is treatable, and women should always seek help.

It comes as we look ahead to World Mental Health Day this Sunday – examining mental health in an unequal world.

The service puts mum and baby at the heart of everything they do, with a personalised treatment plan and support from a whole team professional including full-time psychiatrist, a pharmacist, psychologist, nursery nurses, community psychiatric nurses, an occupational therapist, social workers, a peer support worker, and a Mind support worker who work closely with maternity services including health visitors, midwives, and GPs.

In the video perinatal lead Claire Daniels explains:

“We work with women with a range of mental disorders ranging from post-natal depression and anxiety, anxiety and depression through the pregnancy, obsessive compulsive disorder, birth trauma, right through to things like bi-polar type one disorder and schizophrenia and post-partum psychosis which are a little more at the serious end.”

Lauren Aitken, perinatal psychologist, talks about working with mums directly and also indirectly by supporting other members of the team. That can mean one-to-one or group work with women over 12 weeks WITH compassion-focused therapy, eye movement de-sensitisation and reprocessing and cognitive behaviour therapy. She said:

“As well as the group I also do one-to-one support with mums and that’s where that level of input is recognised as being needed. And that will either be around potentially trauma they’ve experience perhaps during the perinatal period, perhaps around the birth. But also, it may be that there’s been traumatic experiences earlier on sometime in early years, in childhood, and at other times later on that really the journey of motherhood is sort of pulling on, and sometimes the adjustments of motherhood can bring us back reminders of times that we’ve actually felt like we’ve been left behind or forgotten.”

The circle of security group for mums is a chance for them to learn about the relationship with their babies, says Lisa Manser, mental health practitioner. She said:

“It helps the mums to keep the babies in mind, to look thought the eyes of the child and helps with their connection so that they get a secure bond with their babies. You get a lot of mums that are anxious and think they are not doing a good job, so this is a way to demonstrate to them that they actually are doing way better than they think. You also get lots of mums who would like some strategies to help them deal with incidents that crop up with their babies so we can give them advice and support with that as well to help them to manage their babies more effectively and understand their emotions.”

There is also a walking group to help mums keep active and get out and about.

Emily Teja, support worker from Buckinghamshire Mind, said:

“It’s often difficult and quite isolating being a new mum so getting out and meeting people really does help. I am the Mind support worker and I work one-to-one with the ladies. I also run two walking groups and the idea about that is just to get people back out of their house walking around in nature and we just do one-to-one talking.”

During the pandemic the service quickly established services online to continue to support women. Claire says:

“Covid was a really difficult time for our service as it has been for many services. The impact was great on our service-user group. Maternity services had limitations on partners attending scans and even attending the birth at times so that was really difficult for our ladies who were increasingly worried about the pandemic, the vaccines, they were isolated through shielding and they weren’t able to spend time with close family members who would normally be there to support them. So that was really difficult. We had to be quite creative and innovative and get our services running online quickly so we developed an online drop-in group for women to attend so they would know there was somebody there every day or just once in a while whenever they needed to give them that support through tele-psychiatry, so appointments via Teams, and it seemed to work really well. As well as offering face-to-face visits where clinically the risk was quite high. Since then, we are back to more of a hybrid model. We are getting up and running – running groups but we are keeping things online for those who prefer it.

Around this difficult time the service was awarded the South East region NHS Parliamentary Award for Excellence in Mental Health.

Claire says: “That was a real boost for the morale of our team through the pandemic and it was a real testament to the hard work and dedication of the team.”

Speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor if you are concerned about your mental health. They will be able to refer you into the service.

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Published: 4 October 2021