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Local mum supports new mental health service

Suzanne Henson, a 26-year-old mum from Wolverhampton, is supporting the launch of a new Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service in the Black Country, by sharing her experience of perinatal depression.

The new mental health service set up in January this year provides care and treatment to new and expectant mums experiencing severe mental health difficulties.

Suzanne, a mum of two, suffered perinatal depression and anxiety during both of her pregnancies. Whilst pregnant with her second child, Suzanne’s midwife referred her to the specialist service and a few months into the pregnancy, she was in crisis and needed their support.

“I was spiralling out of control with my thoughts and my emotions.” Suzanne said.

“It was when I was driving home on the motorway that I completely lost control, I wanted to let go of the steering wheel. I did not want to hurt anyone else, I did not want to cause anyone any harm. I just wanted a way to go to sleep for a few weeks and leave all the stress and issues behind to just rest.

“I got home that afternoon knowing I had my appointment with the Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service. I went to the appointment and all the Dr said was, ‘how are you?’ and that was it, the floodgates opened and the lot came out.

“Straight away the service went into action. I knew I needed to accept some help, and that night I did. Had it not been for this team, I can guarantee I would not be standing here today. I had every intention to harm myself and I know full well that I would have ended up killing myself and my unborn baby.”

Today, Suzanne shared her experience of perinatal depression with over 150 health and care professionals at a launch event for the new Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service. Professionals attending the event included local GPs, midwives, health visitors and a number of community groups who support women and families.

Speaking at the event today, Suzanne shared how the service had made a difference, she said; “For the first time in a long time, I’ve had proper support. I have had a team who are available to help and support not just me but my family too. It has been a support, which has been greatly needed and appreciated. I honestly would not be as well as I am right now, if I had not been introduced to this team.”

Dr Vanathi Kennedy, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist for the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service said; “Hearing stories, like Suzanne’s, is such a powerful way to raise awareness of mental health during pregnancy and discuss what support is available. It is important we continue to help women in the perinatal period to feel able to talk about their mental health and get help as early as possible.”

“Over the last year we have worked hard to develop and enhance perinatal mental health services across the Black Country, so that we can ensure women like Suzanne, are provided with the right care and treatment, when they need it.”

The development of perinatal mental health services has been prioritised by the NHS in England as part of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, published in 2016. NHS organisations in the Black Country have worked together to develop staff and services so that women affected by the most severe forms of perinatal mental illness – like Suzanne – can rapidly access and receive treatment from robust, comprehensive perinatal mental health services.

The launch of the Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service today is a result of hard work and investment by local commissioners, clinicians and women with lived experience, who have been determined to ensure that women and families in the Black Country receive the very best care.

With the publication of the NHS Long Term Plan earlier this year, the national ambitions for perinatal mental health go even further to supporting women and their families. Locally, the Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service will be best placed to meet the demands of this ambition, supporting and protecting the mental health of this generation and the next.

35 years and counting – Julie is our NHS Hero

This week, Julie Morgan (51) celebrates her 35th anniversary of working in the NHS. Her journey began on 13 June 1984, when she was just 16 years old, and her love for the organisation, which has helped her both personally and professionally shows no signs of letting up yet!

Julie, who currently works as learning and development administration manager, at Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Trust (DWMH) credits her sister as the one who got her NHS career started.

“I was ready to start a catering course at Halesowen College,” explains Julie.

“But my sister, Claire, who is just 18 months older than me, was working at Dudley Family Practitioner Committee and she came home and told me about a three month vacancy which was coming up. I decided to go for the interview, see what it was like and then make a decision – and 35 years later, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made!”

Julie’s first position was as a visual display unit operator for the cervical screening programme.

“I didn’t really know much about the role,” laughed Julie, “but I remember picking it up quite quickly. We had to match the results of the screening programme to patients’ records and then send them a letter with the results.”

Little did Julie know then that the screening programme, which was still in its infancy, would have such an effect on her life.

“Not only did that role start my professional career, years later the programme would save my life. In 2008, after a routine smear test, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Following fantastic treatment, I went on to make a full recovery and have been cancer free for 11 years this month.

“It’s not until you are on the other side that you truly realise what an amazing organisation the NHS is and the amount on wonderful people who work within it – these people are my heroes and I am truly grateful to the NHS for giving me both a fantastic career, and the opportunity to watch my children grow-up.”

Julie’s role at DWMH involves her managing a small team of staff who run the learning and development programme for approximately 1,200 staff.

On a day to day basis, Julie can be found ensuring teams are compliant with their mandatory training requirements, organising any specialised external training and supervising the team. It’s a job she really enjoys.

“I am a people person and I get to speak to different people each day, and I really enjoy helping them with their training needs and ultimately their career development,” said Julie.

“I especially enjoy working with apprentices we have in our team, and I take great pride in watching them grow and gain permanent positions within other teams in the Trust.”

In her spare time, Julie enjoys socialising with friends and family and enjoying weekends away and other holidays – she can often be found in Cala Llonga in Ibiza, which is where she goes to get away from it all.

Julie’s mental health message: “Be open and able to talk about your mental health – there is a catalogue of help available so don’t be afraid to seek it.”

Promoting dignity in care – Dawn is our NHS Hero

After a life changing experience travelling around the UK for three months, Dawn Roe (43) embarked on a different kind of journey 12 years ago when she started her career in the NHS at Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (DWMH), and she hasn’t looked back since.

Dawn started in a bank admin position at Bloxwich Hospital, and has progressed into a variety of different roles within the trust, but has always remained at Bloxwich. She now works as an older adult service administrator, supporting the ward staff with any admin tasks, as well as ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of all non-clinical aspects.

“I realised that I wanted to work in a care setting during my travelling; I know it’s cliché, but it really changed my outlook on life, and consequently me as a person” said Dawn.

In addition to her role, Dawn is also part of the Dignity Champions campaign, led by the National Dignity Council. The campaign works with individuals and organisations to raise awareness of dignity and respect in care services.

“I really love my job and the opportunities it gives me to make a difference.

“I arrange and facilitate our Dignity Champions meetings, and I have seen the group grow from six or seven people, to now over 20 members. That is a brilliant feeling to know that we are coming together to make continuous improvements to care.”

There is no typical shift for Dawn as every day is different and brings something new.

“To go home and know I’ve done the best I can each day for the hospital is the most rewarding part of my job.

“I work with such a great team who put the patients at the heart of everything they do. It’s a privilege to work with such caring people, and even during challenging times we pull together and support each other.” continued Dawn.

During her career, Dawn has had many highlights, but she recalls happy memories of Dignity Champions winning two awards at DWMH’s annual staff awards. She was also runner-up for the Personal, Fair and Diverse award.

“It’s really touching to be recognised individually and as a team for the work we do. But aside from this, the events we organise for patients are also so important to me. The film nights and other activities which benefit patients’ wellbeing are so fulfilling.”

Outside of work, she enjoys socialising with friends, running, walking her two dogs Finn and Ella, and seeing her family.

“I also love my holidays in Cyprus – I find listening to the sea so relaxing!” smiled Dawn.

So who is Dawn’s hero?

“I would have to say my parents. My mum has always been so loving and affectionate; the person I can speak to about anything. She has recently received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and seeing my dad look after her has been inspirational.”

Dawn’s mental health message: “Look after yourself and talk about things. Healthy body, healthy mind.”

Raising awareness – Vicki is our NHS Hero

Back in 2007, after becoming fed-up with working in retail, Vicki Gobsill (30) decided it was time for a career change. After witnessing the rewards her mum and aunty both had from working within care, Vicki decided this was the path for her.

“I studied mental health nursing at university and worked as a health care assistant at the same time,” said Vicki.

“I always felt that mental health nursing was more suited to me than general nursing, I find people fascinating and I wanted to be able to have the time to spend talking to patients and getting to know them and I didn’t feel that would be the case in an acute hospital.”

Once she had qualified in 2010, Vicki joined Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Trust as a staff nurse, based at Bushey Fields Hospital. She later moved to work at the day hospital, which used to be based at Bloxwich Hospital in Walsall. This was decommissioned in 2016 and it was then that Vicki moved into her current role as lead nurse for the Therapy and Liaison Community Service (TALCS).

“There is no typical shift for me,” explained Vicki.

“Each day is different and sees me meeting and working with different people. Half of my time is dedicated to managing the TALCS team and then with the other half, I deliver therapeutic groups or one to one sessions for people who are diagnosed with depression and other mental health conditions such as anxiety or trauma.

“I also spend a lot of time working with the third sector and volunteers who help to support people with a diagnosis of dementia in Walsall.”

Earlier this month, Vicki organised an event called exploring cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) and it is this that she says is her career highlight to date.

“CST is a NICE recommended group therapy intervention for people with dementia and is something that we deliver daily as a team, as well as supporting staff at Bloxwich Hospital to deliver on the wards.

“When we first started TALCS, we discussed having a forum where we could share learning and best practice with other people and organisations who are delivering CST, so for us to have an event, where over 70 people came together to discuss it and hear from patients who have benefited from CST was amazing and really empowering.”

Vicki said that her next big challenging is maintaining the service and developing more dementia pathways, particularly for people with early onset of the condition.

“Sadly, we are seeing more and more people in their 30s and 40s receiving a diagnosis of dementia,” said Vicki.

“So we will keep working hard to ensure that there are as many things as possible in place to support them.”

Outside of work, Vicki enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children.

“We love to spend time outdoors as a family,” smiled Vicki.

“Each weekend we go to the park – it’s our special family space.”

So who is Vicki’s own hero?

She said: “All the people that volunteer their time in Walsall, to support people with a mental health condition.

Vicki’s mental health message: “You are 80% more likely to have good mental health and recover from a mental health condition if you can see nature – so take time to spend outdoors and appreciate what’s around you.”

Dementia Action Week: 20-26 May

This week (20-26 May) is Dementia Action Week and we are delighted to share with you, an insightful poem which has been written by members of our seeing past dementia support group. The poem explains their feelings about receiving their diagnosis and how they have learned to accept and cope with it.

As part of Dementia Action Week, the Alzheimer’s Society are encouraging people to start a conversation with someone with dementia. Research shows that many people are worried about ‘saying the wrong thing’ to people living with dementia – and despite almost all of us knowing someone affected, two-thirds of people living with dementia report feeling isolated and lonely.

It can often be difficult to know what to say, but why not give these tips, which have been written by people living with dementia, a go.

Talk to me, smile, be a little patient and give me time to reply.’

‘A simple ‘hello’, ask about the weather, anything that you feel comfortable with.’

‘Just be yourself and yes, we will make mistakes but it’s ok to laugh along with us.’

‘I love it when people ask me questions. It gives me an opportunity to show that people with dementia exist, that we can still contribute to things going on around us and that life goes on. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like me again’

‘Just don’t ask if I remember.’

‘Don’t be afraid. All it takes is a conversation to see we’re still us.’

For more information on Dementia Action Week visit: