On Monday 29th April, I attended the Maternal Mental Health Conference at The Mac, Belfast. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from the day, but the line-up of speakers and experts looked great and I thought why not give it a go? I have suffered from depression for the last ten years and anxiety for five years, so I have a passion for positive mental health from a personal perspective, but additionally my work with The Mind Tribe UK means I work with a lot of parents, new mothers, pregnant women and children. As someone who has not yet got children of my own, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to develop my knowledge and insight further into maternal and perinatal mental health, the real-life experience of mothers, parents & healthcare professionals, services available to women across Northern Ireland as well as the wider impact of healthcare research. Additionally, I recently wrote a review of Michelle Bradley’s new book “PANGS: Surviving Motherhood & Mental Illness”, which gave such a raw and honest perspective of maternal mental health issues and really encouraged me further to attend the conference.
I booked my ticket, then discovered that on the day there would also be an awards ceremony and that I had been nominated for the “Future Star” Award. Of course, I was (and still am!) absolutely delighted as The Mind Tribe UK had only been trading for 8 weeks at the time of nomination. A couple of weeks followed, and the shortlist was announced. I made the cut! Even more excitement and gratitude.
The conference itself was a day of mixed emotions, experiences and lots of invaluable information! I loved listening to the parents’ panel and hearing the range of experiences had by women and their maternal mental health journeys. I have so much respect for these women and their strength- to share their harrowing stories, to stand up and be brave, to expose their raw experiences and the memories of being at their most vulnerable. It was truly inspiring. It was a real eye-opener for me as well, as a non-parent, to hear the affects that birth trauma can have and the severity of perinatal mental illness. To be honest, in my previous ignorance, I didn’t realise there was such a specialism required for maternal and perinatal mental health and thought that surely all the current service provisions would be suitable for anyone suffering from mental ill -health? The conference completely shook this idea and I’m so pleased it did! It opened my eyes to a whole world of mental health that I hadn’t been aware of - I don’t know if I ever will fully understand until I have children for myself, but it certainly educated me and ignited a further passion within me to continue working with mothers, parents, children and families! Have you ever had a light-bulb moment like that? Where suddenly something sparks inside of you and you feel as though you have discovered a new layer of yourself? Almost like a realisation; a moment of clarity!
There were two things I found most shocking: The abominable lack of healthcare provision and services available in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland for pregnant women and those suffering from perinatal mental illness. How is it acceptable in 2019 that we don’t have ANY mother and baby units on the entire island that allows women to remain with their baby after birth and support them through their maternal mental health journey, simultaneously supporting mother, baby and family? The second shock of the day were the staggering statistics, research and evidence that exemplified even further the significant need for specialist services. We heard an impassioned, informative presentation and an inspirational call-to-action from Keynote speaker, Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance. He shared some truly shocking statistics with us.
Did you know?
Just take a minute to re-read those facts and figures. Now, take a minute to remember that each one of those statistics is a real person- a real person, with a real life, real experiences, real trauma, real families. This was so powerful for me to hear and I hope it has the same shattering impact upon you as you read and re-read those facts!
The day ended on a lighter note with the awards ceremony and I was ecstatic to be shortlisted next to such amazing young women and be recognised in the same league as them! I couldn’t quite believe it when they called my name out as the winner of the “Future Star” award and I am still absolutely over the moon! I have popped my gorgeous trophy up on my awards shelf in my home office.
I left the conference feeling totally honoured, inspired, fervent and motivated to continue making a difference to local women and local families lives and to continue educating myself further around maternal and perinatal mental health. I have total admiration for everyone who is striving to make the world a better place, through community contributions, support services, campaigning, raising awareness and all the other work that goes on behind closed doors that we may never hear about!
Mental health is everyone’s business and my mission with The Mind Tribe UK is to create a global tribe where better mental health and well-being is supported, prioritised and understood by everyone. My mission is to provide quality, enjoyable, inclusive workshops, courses and services to all of our tribe, accelerating the world’s transition to happiness, fulfilment, kindness and mindfulness. For more information on my work visit www.themindtribeuk.com or head over to our facebook page.
For further information on Maternal Mental Health services visit: https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/resources/mums-and-familiesTagged with: maternal mental health, mental wellbeing, mind tribe uk, mums mental health, NI maternal mental health conference, perinatal mental health, pnd
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