Extra online support as figures show 1 in 4 new mums living with depression

While coronavirus has killed dozens of elderly islanders, mental illness remains one of the biggest killers of women during pregnancy and after birth if left untreated.

Maternal mental health awareness week begins today (4 May) and according to a children's centre in Guernsey up to one in four mothers experience anxiety or depression.

The theme this year is 'supporting mums during difficult times.'

The children's centre, Bright Beginnings in Guernsey, runs a service called Beyond Blue to help women suffering with mental health problems in pregnancy and following childbirth.

They are particularly concerned about the emotional well-being of mothers during lockdown.

Becoming a new mum is so hard at any time, let alone during lockdown. Making social connections is so important for pregnant women and new mums, they need to build their village and talk about their challenges and ask advice in a supportive environment. So not being able to attend playgroups and ante-natal classes has heightened anxieties.

Amy Hook, Deputy Manager, Bright Beginnings Children's Centre

The centre is therefore offering online meet-ups for new mums via Zoom, no matter which island they live in.

It has also reached out to former users of its service.

We've been concerned that the mums who normally use our creche or drop off their kids to get a much needed mental break can't now do that so we want to make sure they know we are here to offer support.

Amy Hook, Deputy Manager, Bright Beginnings Children's Centre

Meanwhile Jersey's Mental Health Service has had to change the way it works to adhere to social distancing.

But staff want to reassure people they are still available to help according to the urgency and seriousness of their need.

They have split their service into three parts. There are telephone consultations and online therapy for mild to moderate cases, home visits to see those who are more at risk and a so-called liaison service which is manned 24/7 to help women experiencing a mental health crisis.

At the moment, I work in the home treatment team so that is a front-facing role, going out to see people in their own homes and we're working with people, trying to give them that opportunity to maintain the face-to-face contact that they're used to with previous mental health services. Also the liaison service is offering face-to-face contact with people who may present in crisis and are at imminent risk and are needing that immediate support. So I want to reassure women that there's definitely still face to face contact should they need it.

Liz Auld, Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Nurse

Women who need to access the service are urged to contact their GP in the first instance.

Family Nursing and Home Care in Jersey, who run the health visitor service, say they are still operating albeit with some changes.

The charity wants to remind new mothers they can still arrange a virtual meeting with their health visitor to discuss their emotional well-being or if they really need to, they can be seen in the home.

It is okay if you feel worried, scared or overwhelmed at times, because parenting is always a challenge, (even though it is a rewarding one) - and the current situation can feel very unpredictable. However, please don't worry. We are here to support you, and so are many other people. Even if we can't see you as much 'face to face' as we would normally, we are here to help. You will be allocated a health visitor from Family Nursing and Home Care as usual, and that health visitor will be your point of contact for all your queries. We're still contacting all new parents by phone, and if you need us to, we will come and see you.

Michelle Cumming, Operational Lead for Children and Family Services at FNHC
A list of support and helplines in the Channel Islands is at the bottom of this article. Credit: Global Media Group/SIPA USA/PA Images

In the meantime, here are Bright Beginnings' top tips for new mums to boost their well-being.

  • Take time for yourself

Having a baby is full on. Try to find small moments for yourself, whether it's sitting in a quiet spot in your garden, taking a bath, or watching a funny video. If it feels good, do it.

  • Talk

Becoming a mum is overwhelming but despite lockdown there are still plenty of places to access support over the phone or on video chat. There's a list of helplines below.

  • Be kind to yourself

Becoming a mother is a huge transition. Cut yourself some slack and don't try to be supermum. Now is not the time to be worrying about a messy house or chores. Sleep when your baby sleeps and use your downtime to rest and nourish yourself.

  • Take gentle exercise

A gentle stroll in the outdoors, or a stretch can do the world of good. Vitamin D from sunlight is a natural mood booster and exercise will increase your feel good hormones endorphins.

Here is a list of help and support lines you can contact across the Channel Islands:

Bright Beginnings Children's Centre, Beyond Blue programme01481 244919info@brightbeginnings.gg

Family Nursing and Home Care Health Visitors01534 443674 (Monday to Friday 9am - 4pm)enquiries@fnhc.org.je

Mind Jersey0800 735 9404

Listening Lounge01534 866793

Jersey Recovery College01534 505977

Samaritans01534 116123

Jersey's Mental Health Service 'Talking Therapies' can be accessed through GP referral.

  • WATCH Jess Dunsdon's report here...