By VIEW guest editor Lindsay Robinson, Founder of Have You Seen That Girl? and maternal mental health campaigner
Three years ago, if someone had told me that I’d be the guest editor for an issue of VIEW on Maternal Mental Health, I could not and would not have believed them.
That’s because three years ago I was in the midst of my own, personal battle with maternal mental illness.
Before becoming pregnant and giving birth in 2013, I was completely unaware of maternal mental health and the importance of it.
I didn’t have any idea of the signs and symptoms when someone is struggling, or what support is or should be available.
Due to this, I also didn’t realise that my mental health started to deteriorate during pregnancy and I was showing clear signs of antenatal depression and anxiety. Unfortunately that went undiagnosed and remained untreated until two years after giving birth.
So the first two years of my little boy’s life were all about daily survival. I simply willed myself, each morning, to make it to the end of day, just once more. Each day I awoke to face the same battle as before. That made me very ill – mentally, emotionally and physically.
As time went on, I couldn’t sleep, eat, leave the house or even be on my own for long periods of time. I was a shell of a person, feeling hopeless, useless, unable to cope, frightened, isolated, lonely, walking a tightrope, battling a darkness and despair unlike anything I had ever known before.
I now know that suicide is a leading cause of death for women during pregnancy. One year after giving birth I personally got to the point where I wanted to give up on life altogether, as I was so devastated by what I was experiencing.
Thankfully, when I was finally diagnosed, I began a journey of recovery.
Part of my recovery included writing and sharing my story. From that, I was inundated with mums and families sharing their personal experiences and the impact of maternal mental ill-health on their lives.
As I recovered and regained my voice, I knew I had to do something with all I was hearing and learning.
All of that led me to start Have You Seen that Girl? which is a website, blog and movement dedicated to raising awareness of maternal mental health; reaching out to other parents with a message of hope, community and support; and campaigning for better services and support.
Have You Seen That Girl is also a member of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) and a supporter of their Everyone’s Business campaign.
From MMHA, I learned that 80 percent of Northern Ireland does not have access to specialist perinatal mental health services and there is no Mother and Baby Unit. I was shocked and angry, so I joined the MMHA to get involved in campaigning for change in Northern Ireland and across the UK.
Specialist community perinatal mental health services are vital for the health of our mums and families in Northern Ireland as timely access to services can make all the difference.
Despite many people here campaigning (for years) and actively working to improve services, the investment needed to see this happen has not been released. This is in stark contrast to other areas of the UK where significant improvement and targeted investment for specialist services has occurred and is now making a huge difference to lives and communities.
And so together, many of us continue to call for the necessary funds to be released in Northern Ireland, ensuring women, infants, families and communities get the support they need and deserve.
I’m delighted the team at VIEW have created this issue and that so many different aspects of maternal mental health and a variety of voices are included – that has been very important to me, as the guest editor.
It’s great to be able to celebrate where fantastic support and programmes are available and how people are making a significant difference. It’s also vital we highlight the urgent need for specialist services across Northern Ireland – lives depend on them. That’s what this issue is all about.
• Read Lindsay’s blog at www.haveyouseenthatgirl.com
• Read the full issue of our Maternal Mental Health issue of VIEW – http://viewdigital.org/2018/05/17/latest-issue-insight-into-maternal-mental-health/
• Download a copy of our Maternal Mental health issue of VIEW – https://cl.ly/rcKr
– Sign up to receive future issues of VIEW magazines – http://viewdigital.org/sign-get-view/