Francesca Docherty, from the Perinatal Mental Health Team at Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust, reveals insight into the work of the team, and explains the importance of Maternal Mental Health Week.
She was speaking to Loren Hakeney:
Tell us a bit about the Perinatal Mental Health Team.
Well, we’re made up of a diverse range of roles including Nurses, Psychiatrists, Doctors and Occupational and CBT Therapists and Social Workers, amongst others.
The Perinatal Mental Health Service is open to women who are registered with a GP practice in the Hull, East Riding, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire areas who are in the perinatal period (during pregnancy and up to 12 months post-delivery).
The service is available to women who require specialist assessment and intervention for moderate to severe mental health problems. This could include anything from post-natal depression to eating disorders and self-harm.
How has the COVID19 outbreak impacted your services?
Our perinatal team members are now working from home as a means to continue providing our services across our full geographical area. Where face-to-face appointments used to exist, we are gradually replacing them with phone calls and video calls.
Face-to-face appointments still go ahead if the matter is urgent, but our core message is that, although things may feel unfamiliar and different, we are still here and the vast majority of our interventions are still available.
The reduction in face-to-face appointments was daunting in the beginning. We find working together with our service users in person is especially important, as it allows us to build a connection with them, especially in the initial assessments. However, with things like Skype and Upstream, we are able to maintain some of that rapport building, which has made the transition a little easier to handle.
Interventions are carried out differently, for example, one of our Occupational Therapists had some Perinatal DBT Skills for Life groups scheduled for this month, and she is now in the process of adapting these to work online. I think the effort pitched in by everyone is admirable.
We’re also emailing activity packs to mums, to help encourage positive interactions and development at this difficult time. I’m currently even leading my Baby Yoga and Baby Massage classes over Skype! We’ve had to get creative…that’s for sure.
The bottom line is that we always want to make sure our patients are comfortable and feel supported. We’re really pleased with the positive feedback we have received around our initiatives. We’re learning a lot about the team and about how things can be done differently, it’s definitely a challenge but it’s also quite an eye-opener.
How do you think your team has been handling these changes?
As a team, everyone has been amazing.
We have embraced technology! We have daily team meetings on Teams to ensure we feel connected and able to support one another. We’re continuing with supervisions as we always have and if anything, this support has only increased as we have extra team meetings to make up for the time we don’t sit together in the office.
I think the thing I am most grateful for is the openness of my colleagues. They are always happy to answer the phone and have a chat, I know when I need advice or support there’s someone at the other end of the line to talk to.
What is Maternal Mental Health week and why is it important?
Maternal Mental Health Week is a national awareness week which was established with the aim to talk about mental health during and after pregnancy.
It’s all about raising awareness of perinatal mental illness, advocating for women affected by it, and helping them access information, care and support available to them.
The perinatal period is an extremely important time for women, and whilst we hope this is a happy moment for everyone, we are aware of the challenges it can bring.
In addition to our services, there are a variety of other methods of support out there. From Facebook groups, to online forums and baby classes; there’s something for everyone, it’s just about finding what supports your needs best.
Last year, we celebrated the launch of the Every Mum Matters campaign. This year, while things feel very different, we hope to continue to carry forward this message and keep the momentum going.
We understand that a lot of parents will be feeling isolated and worried during these difficult times, and want to remind you that our services are still available. We are open and here to support you and your family. Having that extra support could make a huge difference, even if it might be over the phone for now.
For Perinatal Mental Health support in Hull, the East Riding, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire, please visit the website here.
For other physical and mental illnesses, please consider the following:
- For help from a GP – use your GP surgery’s website, use an online service or app, or call the surgery.
- For urgent medical help – use the NHS 111 online service, or call 111 if you’re unable to get help online.
- For life-threatening emergencies – call 999 for an ambulance.
If you’re advised to go to hospital, it’s important to go.
For more information, please visit the NHS website here.
[Loren Hakeney – Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust]