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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
Better Together

Local mum supports the launch of a new mental health service by sharing her experience of perinatal depression

Published: 13/06/2019

Suzanne Henson, a 26-year-old mum from Wolverhampton, is supporting the launch of a new Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service in the Black Country, by sharing her experience of perinatal depression.

The new mental health service was set up in January this year and is delivered in partnership between Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust and Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. It provides care and treatment to new and expectant mums experiencing severe mental health difficulties.

Suzanne, a mum of two, suffered perinatal depression and anxiety during both of her pregnancies. Whilst pregnant with her second child, Suzanne’s midwife referred her to the specialist service and a few months into the pregnancy, she was in crisis and needed their support.

 “I was spiralling out of control with my thoughts and my emotions.” Suzanne said.

“It was when I was driving home on the motorway that I completely lost control, I wanted to let go of the steering wheel. I did not want to hurt anyone else, I did not want to cause anyone any harm. I just wanted a way to go to sleep for a few weeks and leave all the stress and issues behind to just rest.

“I got home that afternoon knowing I had my appointment with the Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service. I went to the appointment and all the Dr said was, ‘how are you?’ and that was it, the floodgates opened and the lot came out.

“Straight away the service went into action. I knew I needed to accept some help, and that night I did. Had it not been for this team, I can guarantee I would not be standing here today. I had every intention to harm myself and I know full well that I would have ended up killing myself and my unborn baby.”

Today, Suzanne shared her experience of perinatal depression with over 150 health and care professionals at a launch event for the new Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service. Professionals attending the event included local GPs, midwives, health visitors and a number of community groups who support women and families.

Speaking at the event today, Suzanne shared how the service had made a difference, she said; “For the first time in a long time, I’ve had proper support. I have had a team who are available to help and support not just me but my family too. It has been a support, which has been greatly needed and appreciated. I honestly would not be as well as I am right now, if I had not been introduced to this team.”

Dr Vanathi Kennedy, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist for the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service said; “Hearing stories, like Suzanne’s, is such a powerful way to raise awareness of mental health during pregnancy and discuss what support is available. It is important we continue to help women in the perinatal period to feel able to talk about their mental health and get help as early as possible.”

“Over the last year we have worked hard to develop and enhance perinatal mental health services across the Black Country, so that we can ensure women like Suzanne, are provided with the right care and treatment, when they need it.”

The development of perinatal mental health services has been prioritised by the NHS in England as part of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, published in 2016. NHS organisations in the Black Country have worked together to develop staff and services so that women affected by the most severe forms of perinatal mental illness – like Suzanne – can rapidly access and receive treatment from robust, comprehensive perinatal mental health services.

The launch of the Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Servicetoday is a result of hard work and investment by local commissioners, clinicians and women with lived experience, who have been determined to ensure that women and families in the Black Country receive the very best care.

With the publication of the NHS Long Term Plan earlier this year, the national ambitions for perinatal mental health go even further to supporting women and their families. Locally, the Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service will be best placed to meet the demands of this ambition, supporting and protecting the mental health of this generation and the next.