Mental health problems affect one in four people every year, yet too often people are afraid to talk about their experiences because they fear it will affect their jobs, relationships...
04 February 2015
One mother who doesn’t want to keep ‘mum’ about mental health
Mental health problems affect one in four people every year, yet too often people are afraid to talk about their experiences because they fear it will affect their jobs, relationships or their ability to be a parent.
That’s not right and it’s why across North West London we are committed to supporting Time to Change ‘Time to Talk Day’ on February 4. The national campaign aims to get people talking and break the silence surrounding mental illness.
For many women, pregnancy and having a baby is a happy and positive experience, but for some women this can be a very challenging time and can bring on the onset of mental illness.
Marisa Knightley, 43-year-old-mother-of-one, is supporting the ‘Time to Talk’ campaign by sharing her own experiences of depression during pregnancy and how important it is to talk.
Marisa explains: “I’d consider myself to be a lucky person. I have a good life. I am in a happy and stable relationship. I have a supportive and loving family. Getting pregnant was a blessing as my husband and I had been trying for a baby for many years via IVF.
“I could not have predicted the guilt and fear I would experience during my pregnancy. Instead of feeling elated – I was contemplating suicide. There were no warning signs, nothing to indicate what was going to happen. I was utterly blindsided.
“I was tired all the time - beyond what you would expect with a pregnancy. I became extremely despondent, I lost my interest in everything and I stopped talking. I went from an outgoing chatty person to someone who did not say a word for two months. I experienced a depth of apathy that left me standing staring blankly at the wall for hours on end.
“Slowly, the list of things that I was unable to do grew and became all encumbering, so much so that even the smallest of task such as feeding the dog felt so energy draining – it was as if I was climbing a mountain.
“I was convinced that my husband was going to leave me, take away our child and I would end up locked away. My illness was a life threating condition – my loss of weight was such that at one point it was suggested that I should be admitted to into hospital and put onto drip.
“My husband was desperate. He did not know what to do. He recruited our family and friends to stay with me, so there was someone with me at all times.
“I knew something was wrong and that it was beyond what you’d expect to experience during pregnancy. Ten weeks into my pregnancy, I went to my GP and obstetrician and was swiftly referred to a perinatal mental health unit. I was immediately diagnosed and prescribed anti-depressants and fortnightly counselling sessions.
“I had been filled with such a sense of dread, but having a diagnosis and receiving counselling give me hope. I couldn’t believe that it would end. Going to my counselling appointments gave me a milestone to achieve.
“I had assumed that mental health illness during pregnancy was somehow due to circumstance. I assumed it would happen to someone that was struggling without support, that made sense, but this made no sense. I was not struggling financially and had no previous experience of mental illness. It just goes to show that it can happen to anyone.
“I am comfortable talking about my experience and I am fully aware of the therapeutic nature of talking. I am so lucky to have a group of close friends who are so open to talking. I am not ashamed of having experience a mental illness but I am devastated that it happens to so many women.”
One in five new mothers develop a mental health problem around the time of the birth of their child and some 30,000 women need specialist services. If untreated this can turn into a lifelong illness, proven to increase the likelihood of poor health outcomes to the mother and/or new baby.
Almost a quarter of women who died between six weeks and one year after pregnancy, died from mental-health related causes with one in seven women death as a result of suicide.
Perinatal mental health specialist and community services are variable and generally fragmented across the country.
Fewer than 15 per cent of localities provide specialist services for women with complex or severe conditions at the full level recommended in NICE guidance, and more than 40 per provide no service at all.
How we are improving perinatal mental health services in North West London?
Across North West London we are working with mums and their families to gain a better understanding of perinatal mental illness. Our findings will inform improvements to perinatal mental health services in North West London. We plan to integrate specialist and community services with maternity and children services; improve training and development of our workforce working in areas such as psychiatry, midwifery, obstetrics, and health visiting; increase the number of multi-disciplinary specialist community perinatal mental health teams.
For more information about perinatal mental health in North West London visit: healthiernorthwestlondon.nhs.uk/bettercare/mentalhealth
For more information about Time to Talk Day: www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalkday
If you need any help or advice about perinatal mental health, please contact your GP or NHS 111.