Have you sent your #ShoutieSelfie to raise awareness of Maternal Mental Health?

This week, in case you didn't know, is Maternal Mental Health week. It also saw the launch of the #ShoutieSelfie hashtag which I invented to raise awareness and break the stigma of maternal mental health.

With it being the start of Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, I wanted to start the week with a bang by getting people talking (or shouting!) about this massively important topic.

And it definitely caused a bang! #ShoutieSelfie trended…

Post-Natal Depression, and other perinatal mental illness (such as the lesser know Post-Natal Anxiety, Post-Natal OCD and Psychosis) effects up to 1 in 5 new mums. Unfortunately, most of these mums will suffer in silence – with only a small proportion speaking out, generally once they are better.

I was that 1 in 5. I suffered with terrible PND and PNA after the birth of my son 2 years ago. Unfortunately for me, like so many other mums, becoming a new mum wasn’t the best time of my life – in fact, it was probably the worst. I was getting only an hour of sleep a night, and this brought on terrible anxiety and depression.

I got to the point where even seeing my closest friends for coffee was too much. I had been a career girl, studying at Oxford University before working at Innocent drinks, so finding motherhood a challenge came as a big surprise, as it comes to any mum.

Having PND&A has made me so passionate about helping other mums. I never related particularly with mums, but now that I've been through these awful times, I'm so driven to ensure no other mums go through what I did alone.

I was so lucky to have the best husband in the world - he looked after me in every way. Practically he took on most (and sometimes all!) of the chores, listened to how my day had been and did his best to make me feel understood.

I think it's hard for those watching somebody suffering - particularly if it's not something they've experienced before. But he constantly reminded me that, whilst it wasn't right that I felt that way, it was ok. That I would get better and that he was there to support me every step of the way. Without him, I'm not sure what would have happened.

But I know that not every new mum is as lucky (or indeed any - I can't believe how great he was!) and that's why I've set up MummyLinks - to ensure all mums can set up a local support network - ideally before baby even comes - so that when hard times hit they can pull on it. Not all mums will struggle as badly as I did of course, but all mums will have down days.

I realised that getting out was hard with a new-born, but actually it was the best thing to do. I needed help even with a large support network I had, so I can’t imagine what it’s like for mum’s that don’t have that, perhaps because they’ve moved away from friends and family. I’m a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child.

Now I'm better, I want to make a real difference. I don’t want any more women to feel bad for not enjoying motherhood like they expected. If I’d know at the time that it was so common, and that it didn’t make me an awful person, it would have really helped.

Once you start telling people you are suffering, it’s amazing how many others open up. That is why I launched the #ShoutieSelfie campaign. To get everyone who has known a new mum who has suffered this terrible condition, to post a selfie of themselves shouting that they support mums who suffer.

I've also created video of three mums talking brutally honestly about their experience of PND. It’s called “I didn’t love him” and can be found here: www.bit.ly/IDIDNTLOVEHIM.

My website has a queue of mummy’s just waiting to join, spilling over on to a monitored Facebook group, relying on the 3 degrees of separation that at least one person in the group would be able to vouch for a mum wanting to join. It has now become so big that I want to launch the app as an invitation only facility to get access to meet-ups locally across the UK.

With a third of the funds needed to develop the app already reached, I would love to make it a reality this summer, if the full total can be raised.

I know that for me, it was meeting new people in my community that really made me enjoy my time at home with my baby. Parents don’t need any more reliance on technology for socialising, they just need to get out there and say hello.

If you haven't took part in the #ShoutieSelfie campaign, it's not too late (unless of course you're reading this in 2019, then it probably is) - take a look at the @MummyLinksApp Twitter account and get tweeting your support!

Also, if you’d like to say hello to the new MummyLinks app, why not visit the Emily's Just Giving page here and donate now: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mummylinks. Every little helps create a fantastic resource for mums everywhere.