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The Night That Speaking Out Stole The Show

21/11/2016 14:52

Monday night saw Mind's Media Awards take to the stage for a night that turned out to be a real emotional rollercoaster.

I don't know about other attendees, but I am still going over the incredible stories and speeches in my mind. I really was moved, again and again, and truly inspired - by the very personal stories which lie at the heart of the featured work. And by the difference that we can achieve together if we continue this drip, drip, drip (with the occasional almighty splash) of awareness-raising media coverage for perinatal mental health.

Freddie Flintoff proved the perfect host - sharing his own experiences of depression and stigma with a blend of raw honesty, sensitivity and humour that is so hard to achieve when talking about such a personal and challenging topic.

"When you play sport, you're not meant to give anything away. You're meant to be invincible".

I reflected on the synergies with new parenthood - when you have a baby, you're not supposed to be sad or anxious or fearful. You're meant to be over the moon, the perfect parent.

It was no surprise to me that perinatal mental health featured highly on the night. 2016 has been an incredible year for coverage, and postpartum psychosis was the most highly covered condition across the awards - attributed to the Eastenders storyline early this year.

I found myself feeling anxious as the awards began - due to an unashamedly desperate wish for Rosey Adams of PNDandme to win best 'Blogger'. How delighted I was when she did! As Rosey said, PNDandme is "so much more than a blog". The supportive community brought together through #PNDhour is incredible. The power of peer support is evident, as is how much we can all gain from the bringing together of so many different perspectives. I have learnt an enormous amount from the #PNDfamily, and am so pleased that Rosey's work has been recognised.

It was also fantastic to see ITV Central News accept the 'News and Current Affairs' Award for Men under Pressure. NCT worked with the team on content and case studies for the episode on dads' mental health, and I was glad to be interviewed as part of this. I was especially pleased that Matt Padley's contribution was recognised, who shared his experiences of male postnatal depression.

One of the most moving parts of the night was the award of 'Best Documentary' to BBC One's 'My baby, psychosis, and me', which follows two women's experiences of postpartum psychosis and Winchester's Mother and Baby Unit. The challenges of both filming and being filmed during this time can not be underestimated, nor can the role of Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist Alain Gregoire in facilitating this. Alain's care for Hannah and Jenny was incredible to watch. I remember wishing that we could clone him to enable universal access to this level of skill and empathy. It was wonderful to see Hannah and Jenny take to the stage too - their willingness to share their very difficult stories opened the eyes of viewers to the reality of mental health crisis.

When it came to 'Soaps and Continuing Series', I have to admit to feeling a sense of disappointment that Eastenders didn't win. It took me a while to compute exactly why I felt this way. It wasn't any judgement on the winner, BBC Scotland's River City, whose coverage of self harm clearly had great impact. And it wasn't disappointment for Eastender's Lacey Turner and Jimmy Bye, despite them sustaining such a moving and accurate portrayal of the impact of postpartum psychosis during the complex storyline.

My disappointment was for the women and partners who were represented, and whose terrifying experiences were so publicly acknowledged. Who were then given a platform to share their stories and push the coverage out across every inch of print, digital, radio and television journalism. Who took to social media, #realstaceys confirming that Eastenders hadn't over-dramatised - as Kathryn Grant said, "you can't overplay psychosis".

But my disappointment was short-lived..... The final award made up for it a hundred times over. Lacey Turner and Jimmy Bye stepped onto stage to present a special 'Speaking Out' award to Eve Canavan and Kathryn Grant, who have both experienced postpartum psychosis and worked with the Eastenders team.

We heard how tirelessly they contributed as experts by experience - to the nature of Stacey's behaviours and delusions, to the way she protectively held her baby, to the depth of fear and confusion for Stacey and Martin, to the reactions amongst the community, and the impact on wider family. Lacey and Jimmy's translation of this onto screen was also recognised: "just think how many lives have been changed by their portrayal of postpartum psychosis". Lacey was genuine when she said "we couldn't have done this without you", and explained how Eve and Kat had "fearlessly told their story again and again" in the subsequent media coverage.

Eve then did something extraordinary. She accepted the award and did one of the best speeches I have possibly ever heard! I can't hope to capture the magic here, but her courage, passion and advocacy are a force to be reckoned with. Kathryn unfortunately couldn't attend, but the applause for Eve and Kat was such that she may have felt the tremors from afar!

Thank you to Mind for such fantastic recognition of the positive contribution that media can make to raising awareness and challenging the stigma around mental health. But importantly, also recognising that coverage wouldn't be possible without the women and men who speak out. Who share their stories so powerfully, and advocate for the many more who don't have their voices heard.

Real people and real experiences quite rightly stole the show.

NCT is grateful for input of many experts by experience to our work around perinatal mental health, including the Parents In Mind project.

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