East Sussex postnatal depression service suspended

Katie with her son

A service that helps mothers suffering from postnatal depression across the county has been cancelled due to staff shortages.

The Postnatal Depression and Anxiety Support Groups are run by East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.

Bexhill mum Katie Fusco recently attended one of the groups and said the move meant families would be ‘let down’.

She said: “In July 2017, I was blessed to give birth to a happy and healthy baby boy. Very sadly, I rapidly developed severe postnatal depression. My mental state deteriorated to a crisis point within those first two weeks resulting in two separate psychiatric placements.

“Approximately 50 per cent of new mothers are concerned about their mental health and are suffering in silence. I am so thankful to be one of the lucky ones. I had a wonderful community midwife who I was able to reach out to. She was sensitive, patient and determined, fighting for me to get the help I desperately needed to be able to care for my son the way I, and she, knew I could.

“Once discharged from hospital, it was suggested I attend a Postnatal Depression and Anxiety Support Group. This 10-session course saved me. It was a lifeline during the darkest time of my life.

“Without a doubt, my recovery and healing began when I was given the privilege of listening to and sharing with other brave, strong and resilient mothers who truly knew my struggles. It was the first time in weeks I didn’t feel alone and saw a glimmer of hope for the future.

“During our last session we were informed the group had been cancelled until further notice due to the service being under operational pressure.

“While I understand in any organisation staff time and resources are finite, this effectively means that if I’d been faced with the same issues six months later, the group would not have been available to me. Provision for perinatal mental illness, including antenatal or postnatal depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis, has been cited as disparate, poor and in some cases nonexistent across the UK. A gap in timely provision in East Sussex means entire families will be missed and let down.”

“We are launching our WHY ME campaign in East Sussex and will work tirelessly to reduce the stigma attached to perinatal mental illness. Please reach out to us at whyme.eastsussex@gmail.com or send a tweet to @WhyMeEastSussex.”

Becky Marshall, area manager for health visiting and children’s centres at ESHT, said: “The Postnatal Depression and Anxiety Support Groups are a service we have aimed to provide across East Sussex. Due to staffing issues, recent provision has not been consistent across the county and we have regrettably had to pause the groups while we increase the number of mental health champions to facilitate them.

“We are planning to start the groups again in April with three groups across East Sussex each term. The groups have been very positively evaluated by those who have attended and people tell us that they benefit greatly from the support of the facilitators and the other group members.”

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