Project budget8 537 957 €
ERDF amount5 122 774 €
Across the 2seas area 10-20% of women suffer from Perinatal Mental Illnesses (PMI): mental illness following birth & up to a year after: around 90% of them will not receive the support they need. 1 very common PMI is postnatal depression which has a cost of approx €74K to society related to the impact on both mother & child. The first 3 years of a child’s life are critical for attachment to parents, which lays the foundations for social & emotional development. Without this a child has decreased life chances & does not reach its full academic attainment potential. Currently severe PMI is treated well but the majority is mild to moderate & transitory in nature with no comprehensive, mainstream provision to prepare/support parents. Mums suffer from the fear of their baby being taken away so are reluctant to seek support. PATH addresses the challenge of preventing/supporting PMI providing a modern inclusive health infrastructure to improve perinatal experience & attachment in new families.
PATH will enable women, families & healthcare professionals to prevent, diagnose & successfully manage mild/moderate PMI via radical systemic change, developing an inclusive, holistic health structure: demand driven & co-created with existing patients & expectant/new parents. PATH will prepare parents pre-birth for their new role & help them avoid PMI; currently feelings of being a failure as a parent lead to a reticence in seeking help: 58% of pregnant women/new mothers fear they would be judged. PATH’s multiple entry points including anonymous online services will allow women to access support in a way that best suits them. PATH will also improve the skills of healthcare professionals equipping them to address PMI confidently & effectively. At present 70% in Lille feel they do not have enough knowledge to recognise PMI & 65% of UK midwives do not feel confident in providing satisfactory emotional support during the postnatal period – PATH will address both these issues.
PATH will create:
- a new multi-media international support hub, including gaming/avatars, to help families develop parental awareness & recognise, prevent & overcome PMI. This will benefit all parents in the partner areas, addressing the stereotype of everybody possessing natural parenting skills.
- scientifically evaluated modular prepared parenting & PMI training (building on existing best practice) to increase knowledge & upskill healthcare professionals/employers/parents.
- a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of & destigmatise PMI. This can be suffered by either parent, so raising awareness will also help fathers, recognising & treating symptoms among them early
- community support groups for new families, increasing self-resilience via the wider community & social networks.
PATH will create a new norm of preparing parents & recognising PMI & by providing community care & digital tools in monitoring PMI, send out an early warning message to people & a pathway to help.
Cross border approach
Rates of PMI in all 4 2Seas countries are similar & have remained static for years whilst rates across other parts of Europe are significantly lower. Despite NL providing maternity care (Kraamzorg) for an average of 49 hours after childbirth, rates of PMI are as high as the UK, BE & FR. It is clear that individual countries have not managed to address the issue successfully & a wider approach is needed, learning from initiatives that have taken place & improving on these to provide a better solution. Partners will combine their existing diverse experience & knowledge to address this problem. Within each of the 4 partner countries there is niche expertise, however unless this is combined the PATH results cannot be achieved. Intense cross-border cooperation, taking into account the stature & influence of partner organisations, with co-development & cocreation will provide the critical mass & synergy that is vital for this new inclusive health approach to overcome the problem.
With PATH's first output - a multimedia campaign to raise awareness of and destigmatise perinatal mental health issues and promote prepared parenting - due in 2020, 2019 saw partners focus on introducing and promoting PATH values to their audiences.
A large number of articles have been published across the 2Seas area, including in EuroHealthNet's magazine focusing on childhood and adolescence and the magazine of the Association of Incubator Children. Partners have been promoting PATH at events across Europe such as the Institute of Health Visiting's annual conference in London and MenCare in Vienna, but also holding their own launch events: Southampton City Council held a Teddy Bears Picnic in August, supported by international organisations such as Ikea, whilst Masstaad Ziekenhuis launched PATH at a kick off symposium in October attended by hospital employees and interested parties from across the Netherlands.
The project's Twitter page has gained increasing interest, finishing the year with 750 followers and invitiations to join the panel at events such as the Maternal and Child Health Conference.
The real highlight for the partners has been holding focus groups with the people that will benefit from PATH's interventions: mothers and fathers with lived experience of perinatal mental health issues, healthcare professionals from multiple fields, employers and employees returning to work after maternity leave. As a result of these focus groups, partners have collaborated across borders to create the first version of an online support hub, facilitated by the digital expertise of colleagues Bournemouth University, as well as the drafting of four new modules aimed at face-to-face training for healthcare professionals. Focus groups with mothers and fathers with lived experience of perinatal mental health issues have been crucial in the design of the multimedia awareness campaign in order to project the messages that real people want to hear.
Keep your eyes peeled in May 2020 to find out what those messages are!