A MUM who suffered with postnatal depression so badly that she contemplated suicide has launched a charity supporting new parents.
Leanne Howlett said she never believed depression postnatal depression or perinatal mental illness – which occurs before the birth or in the year following – would be something which would affect her.
While others could see she was not herself, the mum-of-one from Leamington initially refused help until she eventually accepted a referral onto the perinatal mental health clinic. She was diagnosed with severe post-natal depression – but still declined any support or antidepressants.
Leanne said: “There is a certain stigma attached to mental illness and even more so when you have a baby as everyone assumes you should be so happy.
“In the end I became so unwell I almost took my own life before eventually the crisis team were called in and I finally got the help I needed.
“Once I was better I learned suicide is the biggest cause of maternal death in this country which I found really shocking as it’s something so preventable with the right support in place.”
After the 31 year-old made a full recovery she wanted to help other new mums who may be struggling with the same issues.
She has set up a support service called By Your Side which supports local mums through one to one sessions.
Leanne and her 15-strong team of volunteers also run mum and baby ‘stay and play’ sessions at The Gap in Warwick, which have been a success as many new mums suffering with mental health problems do not want to attend ‘regular’ groups due to perceptions other parents are coping better than them.
She said: “I made it my mission to try and improve things locally for mums so approached the psychologist who looked after me to see what could be done.
“Around 20 per cent of new mums will experience some degree of perinatal mental illness and my eventual aim is that mums will feel confident in seeking help in the same way they would any other physical pregnancy related ailment.”
People can be referred to the support service through the perinatal mental health team after being referred by a GP or midwife. Alternatively email the charity direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.fb.com/byyoursideperinatal for more information.