Despite only living an hour out of London, and commuting there for 15 years, I still get a little touristy. So when the fantastic Dr Raja Gangopadhyay invited me to attend his event at the House of Commons – The Importance of Addressing Mental Health Conditions in Pregnancy and Beyond – the venue itself got me a little giddy.
Impressive surroundings aside, Friday’s event was a brilliant example of the rightful importance now being given to Perinatal Mental Health. Raja works tirelessly on his campaign on behalf of mums who suffered as I did and the incredible speakers he pulled together for this conference demonstrates that.
This is the latest in a number of PMH events I’ve attended since I began The Butterfly Mother and every single time I’ve noted the feeling of strength and empowerment that comes from being in a room with so many passionate professionals and advocates.
From midwives and psychiatrists to journalists and survivors like me and the #pndfamily, the atmosphere felt incredibly positive. When I hear so many bright, engaged speakers and chat to so many others who have the same spark for change as I do, I can’t help but feel optimistic. With this many people in our corner we cannot help but make a difference, right? These people are all researching and writing and fighting for women like me, to get women well or to prevent them from becoming sick in the first place.
With so many inspiring talks it’s almost impossible to summarise but here were just a few personal highlights.
Antoinette Sandbach MP already brought tears to my eyes with her impassioned speech in parliament last year, and again I felt completely moved by her talk about supporting women better who have suffered the bereavement of baby loss.
I was fascinated by both Prof. Vivette Glover and Anna Day‘s discussions about the effects of stress on the unborn baby and of poor bonding during the early days, respectively. Inevitably, their words did ignite the black flame of guilt in me a little. Have I damaged my son with my initial bonding difficulties? Did I miscarry in May because of antenatal anxiety? Thankfully, I’m able to rationalise those worries and I found their data truly eye-opening and vital.
It’s no surprise that my favourite speech of the afternoon was from fellow blogger and advocate Lindsay Robinson of Have You Seen That Girl? From wondering if her son was really hers to feelings of derealisation, so much of her emotional account rang true with me and her passionate story-sharing struck a chord with everyone listening I’m sure.
All the speakers were fascinating and inspiring and it was great that representatives from all across the healthcare sector were given a chance to briefly contribute from the audience too. It was wonderful to see Dr Carrie Ladd again whose work educating GPs is absolutely vital.
Raja used a fantastic expression in his summing up; ‘From parliament to pub’. For me, this completely sums up Perinatal Mental Health campaigning. Absolutely nobody is immune to a mental health condition. I hadn’t had a mental health issue in 30 years before becoming a mum. I have a loving family and a stable background. I have a brilliant husband and financial stability. And yet I still became unwell. PND doesn’t discriminate and it not only affects the women themselves but also, as Prof. Glover, Anna Day and Mark Williams all demonstrated, it affects children, partners and families too. It affects the full spectrum of society. Which makes improving services everyone’s problem.
We were talking in the House of Commons, yes. We had lots on top medical brass in attendance, yes. But these issues and illnesses should also be discussed everywhere else. At parent groups, at health visitor appointments, at cafes and soft play. With partners, with parents, with friends.
And yes, even down the pub.