A patient driven perinatal support scheme for women who have low mood and anxiety issues after giving birth has been shortlisted for a patient experience award in mental health.
Recognised for involving mothers in improving health visiting perinatal mental health services, the scheme is through to the final selection in the Patient Experience category for the Positive Practice in Mental Health. The winner will be announced this Thursday 13 October.
Having a baby is usually thought of as a happy time, yet many mothers and fathers do not feel like this straight away. One in five parents experience anxiety, depression or other mental health problems whilst pregnant, or in the first year after the birth of their baby.
By developing good relationships with the mothers, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (SHFT) health visiting team were able to identify those experiencing low mood and anxiety to get some extra tailored group support with other mums experiencing similar symptoms.
The “Knowing Me, Knowing You” support group was set up initially by SHFT Andover Health Visiting Team in partnership with Andover Mind to support mothers with anxiety and low mood postnatally. The group provides a two-hour group session, on a weekly basis for seven weeks covering topics based on feedback received from mothers who identified the level of support they needed, including feeling isolated, feeling like a failure and being afraid to be honest about how they were feeling.
They have now produced a video telling the story of three mums, Claire, Emma and Elise who have been on the Knowing Me Knowing You support group.
They openly describe how they were feeling about coping with a new baby, the challenges they faced and what a difference the group has made to them. They explain how they felt they were the only ones experiencing low mood, how they were afraid to be judged so would rather put on a “mask” and hide it. By attending the group, mums were able to find out more about what postnatal depression was, talk to each other and get the support from the health visitor. The group helped them develop ways of coping with the anxiety, enabled them to recognise they were not alone, and that they can get through periods of time when they feel low. It has given them a safe environment to discuss their concerns and find support not only from the health visitors, but also the others in the group.
Anwen Naylor-Evans, a health visitor supporting the group, explains how “working with these mums has been so humbling. This has always been about them and what they want from it - we facilitated it, but they have driven it and they have shaped the way we work in Andover.”
The results from the group have been very positive with reduced levels of depression and anxiety, and increased confidence at the end of the seven sessions. All the mothers that attended the group said that they would recommend it to other women who might be feeling low or anxious.
Alison Morton, Head of Nursing for Childrens and Families Services, SHFT, explained that, “This project has shown the difference that group support can make for mothers and their babies and we hope that the findings will encourage more mothers to speak to their health visitors about how they are feeling. By co-designing the group’s format with the mothers we ensured that the sessions were directly focussed on the issues both the health visitors and mothers had raised and on delivering ways of coping with those issues.”
The scheme used the Kings Fund experience based co-design toolkit amended to suit the community and mental health focus (http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/ebcd). Experience based co-design involves gathering experiences from patients through in depth interviewing, observation and group discussions, identifying key touch points (emotionally significant points) and assigning positive or negative feelings. This process then lends itself to co-designing strategies to manage these feelings. Patients are engaged in the process to explore the findings and to identify ways to improve the service.
Alison Morton and Anwen Naylor-Evans will be presenting “Knowing Me, Knowing You” to the Community Practitioner and Health Visiting Association annual conference in Telford in November.
This scheme has struck a chord with health visitors and mothers across Hampshire, and they are now looking to set up “Knowing me Knowing you” groups in other areas. New groups have just started in Farnborough and Basingstoke.