Last year Public Health Scotland worked with a group of experts from various roles, including experts by experience, to update perinatal mental health messaging as part of the redesign of Ready Steady Baby. This is a pregnancy and birth guide that all expectant parents in Scotland receive. It highlighted a need to provide more detail on the range of mental health difficulties that can emerge in the perinatal period . Our experts also called for mental health to be a theme that is clearly woven throughout the guide. In particular, there needed to be:
• A universal message normalising emotional ups and downs in pregnancy and after the birth of a baby.
• Clear calls to action to speak to someone if feelings and thoughts became overwhelming.
• Messages that apply to all women, their partners, families and those supporting them.
• A strong anti-stigma message.
Following the launch of the updated Ready Steady Baby, the increased mental health content was widely celebrated. It increased our desire to look at a wider public health response to perinatal mental health; essentially, considering how we look after all women’s mental health in the perinatal period. It was clear our experts were not ready to stop these conversations and keen to explore how they could push the agenda forward. There was an appetite from parents and staff for more universal perinatal mental health information. At that same time, there was recognition that while women are ‘bombarded’ with messaging about physical health this is not the case for mental health.
“We need a poster!”
In collaboration with experts, the Maternal Mental Health Scotland change agents and Public Health Scotland developed a series of posters on mental health in pregnancy. These were for mums-to-be, their partners and for the staff supporting them. For mums and partners, the posters delivered a strong universal anti-stigma message. Our aim was to normalise the ‘ups and downs’ in pregnancy whilst delivering a clear call to action: speak to someone if thoughts and feelings begin to build up.
The staff awareness poster would act as a reminder and prompt to staff to think about mental health. A reminder that as part of their discussions with expectant parents, mental health needs to be discussed and normalised as much as physical health is. The importance of relationships and the use of “soft skills” (compassion, active listening, respect, adaptability, empathy) during a period in which mothers to be can feel vulnerable, was emphasised.
Launched earlier this year, the posters were part of a small pilot across an urban, rural and a specialist setting. Posters were located in areas that would make them highly visible to expectant and new parents, in GP surgeries and clinic waiting areas. The staff posters were displayed in areas that would remind busy staff to keep mental health on their discussion agendas.
We will be collecting feedback to inform further development of the posters. Our hope is to develop them further and bring about a national rollout. It’s also more than a poster. At Public Health Scotland we hope it is the start of more conversations around mental health in the perinatal period. This means we can protect and nurture all women and their families better, while supporting staff and influencing others to recognise the importance of all this.
We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the posters. You can either message us via our twitter account @P_H_S_PMH, take 5 minutes to complete a survey or simply email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gill Skene, Peer Supporter with LATNEM & Change Agent, Maternal Mental Health Scotland, Carly Grant, Senior Health Improvement Officer & Ruairi O’Brien, Health Improvement Officer, Public Mental Health, Public Health Scotland. 16 September 2020