Tuesday 23 June 2015

The power of US

Yesterday I had the honour of "climbing out the darkness" with five other survivors of severe postpartum mental illnes.  Two of these ladies I already know and love, the other three were Twitter acquaintances joining us for the first time.  Together, we climbed over the 02 centre (Millenium Dome!).  We did this not to raise money (which we accomplished last year) but to raise awareness of perinatal mental illness.  So lots of photos were taken which were plastered all over our social media afterwards.  The Climb is an international event organised by the incredible Katherine Stone and US-based charity Postpartum Progress.  

Just coming together as a team felt powerful enough in itself.  Among us we had survived suicide attempts, hospitalisation, birth trauma, stigma and discrimination.  But here we were, standing up and being proud of all we have survived.  Speaking up because we know so many women don't ever get that chance.  Because they lost their lives to the illness, or are trapped in communities which refuse to acknowledge or accommodate their conditions. 

We are the survivors.  We aren't stronger or more determined or more gifted than the others.  No.  We are simply the lucky ones.  The ones who found the right help at the right time.  In my own case, I know I was lucky to have such an acute episode of psychosis, so soon after childbirth, that my illness was immediately recognisable.  I was lucky to be living in an area served by a world-class Mother and Baby Unit.  I was (and still am!) lucky to be married to an incredibly supportive husband, who was strong enough to come with me on every step of the journey through psychosis and recovery.

So this is why we climbed: for all those women not so lucky.  The new mums whose illnesses sneak up on them, disguised as tiredness or baby blues or new mum anxiety.  The families living in areas without an MBU or specialist perinatal service.  The women who are on their own and have no partner to advocate for them and fight the illness with them.

There is so much still to fight for: to increase awareness and recognition of perinatal mental illness, so that no more women fall through the cracks.  To improve the coverage of perinatal services, and in particular MBUs, across the country.  To provide more support to single mums, partners and family members, so that families are not fighting this alone.  

Please join us on this mission.  Tweet using the hashtags #EveryonesBusiness #TogetherWeAreStronger and #PNDFamily.  Follow the perinatal mental health partnership on Twitter (@PMHP_UK) and look out for our awareness campaign starting soon.

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