Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Do you have a mental health problem?

This week at Uni we've been talking about post natal depression and mental health issues. It was unfortunate timing that the news about Felicia Boots hit the headlines. Or was it? I do think that post natal depression is not talked about enough. Depression is a stigma and not discussed as much as it should be. Allegedly Felicia did not take the medication that she needed because she was so frightened that the medication would affect her babies through her breast milk. This is not an uncommon event, although fortunately most women do not kill their children. Do you know which drugs are safe in pregnancy or to breastfeed with? No? Neither do I. However I do know where I can access the information to find out and I also know that in some situations, whilst one drug may not be suitable, there may be an alternative. Simply stopping a drug is not the best course of action. 

Felicia's case is truly tragic but there are so many others that need more support. Mental Health issues affect 1 in 4 people every that could easily be you right? I know it was me. I've told you about when my brother died and naturally bereavement can be a large precursor to mental health problems. Personally I also was dealing with a variety of other difficulties in my personal mentioned before, my sister's family life wasn't easy, but at the same time my husband had lost his job, we were struggling financially and at the time, it just felt like everything was going wrong. Usually an optimistic person, I became consumed with the thought that some people were just unlucky and no matter how hard they tried, their lives would always be miserable, and who was to say that wasn't me. I had thoughts of leaving my family....not of suicide, just of driving away and living somewhere far away from them. I decided I was bad luck and I would bring nothing good to them. Luckily I have a wonderfully supportive family and friends, and I sought help from the GP. I was immediately referred for counselling and given regular appointments with my doctor. Initially my GP was reluctant to prescribe anti-depressants because I was breastfeeding and he was unsure if they were safe. Encouraged my friends, I returned to my GP armed with information from the Breastfeeding Network and I was given the medication that I needed. Fortunately for me, the medication and counselling I had, helped me. I recovered without any major side effects. I was lucky. I am no longer in counselling, and I am no longer on medication. However it's also not something I shout about.

If doctors are afraid to prescribe the medication that people need then it's really no surprise that women are afraid to take it, in pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding. But where does this leave the women that so desperately need help. What about those women who have serious mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, psychosis etc... The medication that they take can be essential to them being able to live a "normal" life. There are only 13 mother and baby units in the UK. This means that any mother requiring inpatient care for a mental health issue is more likely to be separated from her baby due to the lack of this vital resource. 

The NHS offers this page as advice for anyone worried about postnatal depression.

I don't have the answers to the problem but I hope that I do remember to talk to take that time and listen and ensure that they are getting the support they so desperately need. I will do my absolute best to ensure that women aren't stopping medication unnecessarily. I will encourage women to speak up if they are feeling down and I will encourage family members to watch out for the signs of postnatal depression. But this is something you can look out for too....with friends, family members, colleagues, neighbours. Not necessarily postnatal depression but any form of mental health issue. Let's break down this stigma and offer people the help they really need. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Thinking towards the future

Yesterday the group ahead of ours graduated. Wow! Well done to all of them. However it does bring it home, that soon it will be us. Our lecturers are beginning to talk about job applications and portfolios and other paperwork that will need to be completed before we can qualify. In just a few weeks we will begin our final placement and we'll be aiming to get as much experience as we can whilst we are still students. I know I definitely feel like I still have so much to learn, and that there is no way I have enough time to learn it all. However I do feel that it is a bit like driving and passing your test. At first you know enough to've got the basics but you need experience to become more confident. You certainly can't know what you've never faced. I don't worry about it because I think it's far more dangerous to think you know it all. We are life long learners and it's important to remember that.

At times I still feel completely overwhelmed. If I think about my dissertation and assignment still to be written, my portfolio to complete, my genetics workbook to complete and everything else, I feel slightly ill. Therefore I try really hard to concentrate on one thing at a time. And that's just the academic side of things. This placement we also have to get all of our required deliveries and ensure we've got all our hours. I only need three more deliveries thankfully but I know that there are some of my cohort that need far more and they'll be pushing hard to get them now, so that they can qualify together with the rest of us.

In between studying and researching for my dissertation, I am spending quite a lot of time with my daughters Twirling group I do think it is vital to have some time out from being a student midwife and for me, spending time with my family is essential. My eldest daughter has been twirling for just over a year now and my youngest joined her just a few months ago. Over the time they have been going, I have made some fantastic new friends and they too offer me support as a student. My eldest daughter used to be quite shy but her confidence has increased tenfold, through this hobby. This weekend, they both attended a competition and were both were fortunate enough to come home with trophies. A year ago I would never have thought it could be possible.

Recently I also helped at an open evening at my University. I really enjoyed seeing the potential students and their enthusiasm for midwifery. It reminded me of when I first started my journey to become a midwife and how excited I was. I am still excited about becoming a midwife and I look forward to my career and supporting women at such an important time of their lives. So when the amount of work to be done is getting me down, and overwhelmed, I just remind myself of why I set out on this journey and I battle on another day!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

OSCE result is in!

And I passed! Hooray!

Sorry for the lack of posting but what with the OSCE and then we've an assignment due this week (which I've now finished)...there hasn't been a whole lot of time for blogging.

I am now heading into the final part of my course and the end is in sight....this is something that many people keep saying to me.It's nice to think of a time when I won't have exams looming and assignments due but at the same time it's quite nerve wracking. I will no longer have a safety net of a mentor and I can't pretend to be a first year and not know what I'm doing. I will be working under my own pin....the reality is quite scary. I am going to try and make the most of my final placements and really work hard to gain my confidence and particularly try to work in areas where I am the least confident.

Of course before I reach there I have a dissertation to write, a 4000 word assignment, another 12 weeks (I think) of placement and objectives to be signed off. I also need to complete my portfolio, my genetics workbook and start applying for jobs. Gosh there is still a lot to be done!

Whilst the future is scary in many ways, it's also quite exciting. I remember what it felt like when I was offered my place on the course. That wait for the phone call felt like forever, even though in fact I was lucky and I only had to wait a week when I know some have to wait months for an answer. I had an inkling of what the job would entail, having had my own children but the reality of being a student midwife has at times been quite challenging. I have had times when I've thought I can't do this, I'm going to fail, I don't enjoy working liking this and so on... However one thing that has kept me going throughout it all is the fact that when I am with a woman, whether in labour, antenatally or postnatally, I love what I do. I feel that I am helping to make a difference to her, even if it is only something very tiny. I want to do that every day. I want to support women to the best of my ability and to keep making a difference,

So fingers crossed for the remainder of my work and my results!