Thursday 25 April 2019
Wednesday 1st May is World Maternal Mental Health Day and to mark the occasion the Island's Health Visitors, along with support workers from Kindred and Bright Beginnings Children's Centres, will be holding an event at the Guille-Allès Library to raise awareness of the issue of maternal mental health and the services that are available to help local families.
Health professionals and support workers will be on hand from 9:00am - 1:30pm to give support and advice on how to access the services available. There will also be information available about maternal mental health, as well as self-help books available at the Library and signposting to more specialist support groups and services.
Debbie Pittman, Service Manager Child Health, Children and Family Community Services, said there are many programmes and groups designed to support expectant and new parents which are in line with the UK Government's 1001 Critical Days Manifesto, which aims to give young children the best start in life by providing support for new parents, particularly those who may need additional help and support.
"Having a new baby is a very exciting time for new parents, but is often the hardest work they will ever do and probably one of the most responsible jobs there is. Pregnancy and the first two years of babies' lives are a time of rapid development," she said. "That is why it is so important to provide these services so we can find those parents who may need a little extra help, and get them the support they need.
"Here in Guernsey we have our own 1001 days Critical Days Project, with both government and voluntary agencies and services providing care and support for parents before the birth of their babies, through the early weeks, months and years of a child's life," said Ms Pittman.
"This approach is the very embodiment of aims of the Partnership of Purpose; that is a joined up approach from government, allied health professionals and the third sector providing services and engaging with members of our community who want to give their children the best start in life, all working towards a common goal."
Midwives, Support Workers and Health Visitors run an antenatal programme for first time parents called Great Expectations, which focuses on the emotional aspects of becoming a parents and responding to a new baby as well as the more practical aspects of labour and birth.
In response to the 1001 Critical Days Project, the health visiting service introduced a new programme of intensive home visiting in June 2018. Named the MECSH (Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home Visiting), the programme is designed for new parents who would like extra support. This gives the opportunity for new parents to have additional support from their health visitor in the first two years of their baby's life, with more frequent visiting in the very early days.
So far the programme has been welcomed by parents, said Ms Pittman.
"It offers frequent home visiting, supporting parent and child health and wellbeing as well as encouraging aspirations for their child. It not only focuses on child development but also encourages and supports social relationships within the wider family and community. The health visitors work very closely with their colleagues at the Kindred and Bright Beginnings Children's Centres. Both Children's Centres focus on support in the early years and provide wide and varied range of groups and activities for new parents, such as baby massage, baby sensory groups and the Incredible Years and Mellow parenting groups. Well baby clinics are held weekly at both centres."
Parents who may be concerned about the development of their child's speech and language can get help at drop in 'Let's Talk' sessions at both children's centres as well as at the Library. The service is arranged by Speech and Language Therapists and provides easy access to the therapists who will advise on any speech and language issues, and parents can either be advised to attend by their health visitor or can simply come along and attend one of the sessions.
All the services that provide help parents from conception to when a child is 2 years old have joined up to develop a pathway for new parents and their children. Called the perinatal pathway, it maps out the various services available for parents and children. It has been developed and installed at Bright Beginnings Children's Centre and will soon be installed at Kindred Children's Centre.
In recent years there has been significant progress on a national level in improving access to services for women who are experiencing mental ill health when pregnant and in the postnatal period.
"In Guernsey we have worked across the health and social care sectors to provide support to our service users on an individual basis. To enhance this service we are currently developing a Perinatal Mental Health Pathway which will provide clear information about the services available to families. The Pathway will aim to promote a positive experience of care whilst increasing awareness of perinatal mental health, promoting early identification, diagnosis, as well as timely access to evidenced based interventions."
As part of the Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home Visiting programme, the Health Visiting service has secured funding from Health and Social Care to employ a mental health nurse to work alongside the programme. Whilst the health visitors will still provide support for mild to moderate emotional health issues, those in need of a more specialist intervention will be referred to the Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home Visiting mental health nurse as part of the programme. Held at Kindred Children's Centre, this service will complement and support 'Breaking Free' an eight-week course for women experiencing long term or moderate to severe postnatal depression, facilitated by a mental health nurse and health visitor or support worker. This course has supported numerous women experiencing postnatal depression and is demonstrated in the feedback we have had from women attending the course:
- "This has saved me, I would not be able to get through this without the course."
- "Thank you for your patience and understanding me to mend my family."
- "I'm calmer, what an amazing course it has changed my life."
- "I have reconnected with my family and my marriage is in a healthy place"
- "Just that I love being a mummy much more now than I did."
- "This has helped me think more positively."
In addition, Bright Beginnings offers a support group for women experiencing perinatal mental illness, called 'Beyond Blue'. Beyond Blue offers a fortnightly support group and 1-1 support. The aim is to make sure families experiencing perinatal mental illnesses know they are not alone and feel supported through this isolating time.