Last week I have the privilege of attending a session in Westminster on the importance of mental health provision during pregnancy. It was attended by about 200 mental health advocates - ranging from doctors, midwives and health visitors, to social media influencers and MPs.
One of the speakers - from the Royal College of Midwives stated controversially that “if PND was a male issue it would be sorted by now”. The room buzzed with agreement and nods.
I have to say I was nodding along too - having heard a lot in previous month’s media about VCs historically focusing on male dominated businesses. A example I’d seen on the TV being that viagra was funded easily, whilst a female comparison had difficulties as the VCs were male and therefore didn’t see this as an issue.
I think she was right to highlight that the fact that it’s a female disease (primarily - although you can get PND as a man). However to say it would be sorted, on reflection, isn’t true. According to a recent report by Samaritans that “The highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 40–44”. I’d guess that most senior VCs fall into this category so they’d be aware of this and it’s still not been “sorted”. Although, of course those at risk of suicide may not be working as VCs (or at least not anymore).
But I do agree that it would be higher on the agenda. It would have more funding. It would be less stigmatised.
Until now, mental health issues have been taboo. But the tide is changing. Two generations ago it was taboo to talk about cancer. Someone would die of cancer and it just wouldn’t be mentioned. That sounds ludicrous to us now. So there is hope, and we are making great steps in the right direction.
This week saw the launch of #mumtakeover, a campaign held by BBC5Live with Stacey Solomon, Rochelle Humes, Giovanna Fletcher, Anne Foster and DJ Neev talking openly about their experience of maternal mental health. It was a great day - getting mums talking. Social media went wild.
I was lucky enough as part of this campaign to be interviewed on BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. I felt privileged to talk out and share my story (well 57 seconds of it!). I hoped to share firstly, how this awful condition can change who you are (temporarily):
And secondly to advocate that all mums speak out - whether just to their GP to get help, or to their wider community. To get help. Raise awareness. And beat that stigma.
But do these campaigns make a real difference? This is a question a number of my maternal mental health campaigner peers have been asking recently. And I think they do in one sense, but need to make more of an impact in another.
They do in that they raise awareness, hopefully educate some, and crucial help those mums currently struggling to feel normal, not alone, and unashamed. But so far we’re not seeing any major step changes in policy or funding to help mums beyond encouragement and support.
What could you do today to help change this? I’d love to hear your thoughts.