World Suicide Prevention Day 2021: Creating Hope Through Action

This is a talk that I gave to the North East North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network event to raise awareness this WSPD, on the subject of Happy Mums and Creating Hope Through Action.

To tell you about Happy Mums, I need to take you back to New Year's Eve 2011 - I vividly remember watching the fireworks from the window of my bedroom in the Mother and Baby Unit in Manchester. I was thinking "how has it come to this?". I had been so excited to have a baby and start a family, but within three weeks of giving birth to my daughter I had been diagnosed with Postnatal Depression, come close to ending my own life and admitted to a psychiatric unit. I had lost all hope; I didn't believe the doctors, nurses, family and friends who told me that I would get better. I would say to myself "they cannot possibly understand how bad I feel - I will be the one patient who doesn't recover".

But, now ten years later, I can pinpoint the moment that I found hope. It was sitting in the TV area in the unit, and commented to another mum that the woman who was packing up to go home for the weekend seemed like she didn't need to be here - she seemed to me like a "normal mum". In contrast I wasn't even able to care for my daughter, and spent a lot of my day very distressed. And her answer was "a few weeks ago she was just like you, but she has got better". I couldn't argue with lived experience, and suddenly it became possible for me to get better too.

I wanted to recreate those moments of hope through shared experience back in my own community, and this is where Happy Mums came from. Fast forwarding ten years and I now have three children and I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by inspiring, courageous women at our weekly support groups. I set-up The Happy Mums Foundation CIC in 2015 and we were initially grant-funded by Comic Relief. 'Creating Hope Through Action' is the epitome of what Happy Mums is all about, through our weekly support groups in local communities and online, as well as our intersectional group for mums of children with Downs Syndrome.

It's important to highlight that suicide is still the leading cause of death for women in the first year after giving birth. Those deaths, and that suffering is preventable. We know that peer-support makes a difference. We have women who attend the groups, and then go on to take on leadership opportunities through our volunteering programme.

In order to be self-sustaining we have also developed a training programme endorsed by the national awarding body CACHE/NCFE targeted at Early Years Settings but we hope to expand this into schools and workplaces as well. The training we deliver is from a lived-experience perspective and is non-clinical. We hope to empower people to tackle the issue of parent mental health at the earliest possible point in a child's life, linking to the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences. In fact 72% of the impact of a maternal mental health problem is on the child across the rest of their lives. If we can ensure that the mum gets the right support, we are creating positive outcomes for her but also her child.

That's how Happy Mums is Creating Hope Through Action. Thank you.

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