The project will raise awareness of perinatal mental health and the support available to ensure the general public and health and social care professionals better understand the problems women can face.
Alan Briscoe, the Welsh mental health charity, Mind Cymru’s Training and Consultancy Manager, said: “Mental ill health during pregnancy and early motherhood is a serious issue with potentially lifelong consequences for the mental health and wellbeing of women and their families.
“Pregnancy and early motherhood should be a happy and exciting time but for too many women this is sadly not the case. Expectant and new mums can be very vulnerable, but are often overlooked and not given appropriate help early enough. It was with this in mind that Mind Cymru developed the new perinatal mental health project.
“Our aim is to not only increase the number of women who seek early support but to also ensure support is available when needed. To do this we will work with a broad range of partners within communities and the voluntary and health sectors targeting women across Wales, including those living in rural areas and from BME and refugee backgrounds.”
Chris Coe, Regional Director for Wales for Farm Community Network, one of the organisations involved in the project, said: “Perinatal mental health problems affect women across Wales. People in rural areas can feel more isolated than those in larger towns and cities and find it harder to access the help and support they may need. I am therefore delighted to be involved with this project on behalf of the Farm Community Network.”
Two kinds of perinatal mental health training will also be developed and rolled out as part of the project. Alan explained: “The first will be aimed at health and social care professionals to help increase recognition of the early signs of perinatal mental health problems. This will increase opportunities for early intervention, resulting in improved support and better outcomes for those involved.
“The second will focus on helping to increase the resilience of women from at risk groups. This will allow those who take part in the workshops to learn skills that will have a long lasting impact on their personal health and the wellbeing of their families.”
Laura Jane, a mother of two, experienced mental health problems following complications during pregnancy. She said: “My pregnancies certainly weren’t easy. My problems probably started about 16 weeks into my first pregnancy and continued until after the birth of my second child. During this time I had a lot of physical health problems including intense pain and sickness, which had an effect on my mental health.
“As someone who experienced severe depression from my twentieth week of pregnancy, this project cannot come soon enough. I believe I would have really benefitted from resilience training.
“I also believe improving general awareness and recognition of signs and breaking down the stigma associated with perinatal mental health will certainly benefit women and families for years to come.”
Mark Williams’ wife suffered severe postnatal depression, which spurred him on to create Fathers Reaching Out, a charity to support men whose wives and partners experience postnatal depression. He said: “People struggling with perinatal mental health problems shouldn’t have to struggle in silence. This project is well overdue and will make a big change to the lives of many families across Wales.”
Mind Cymru is also looking for women who have experienced perinatal mental health problems to get directly involved with the project by sharing their story and help shape the content of project information and resources.
Allan added: “We’d like to offer women the chance to share their story by helping them to create their own digital story. Those who would like to get involved will be given training and support to create their story. We’re also asking women to help shape the content of the project’s information resources to ensure they are as useful and accessible as possible. We are especially keen to hear from Welsh speakers and women whose first language is neither Welsh nor English.”