Local perinatal mental health champion wins regional award

Coventry and Warwickshire perinatal mental health champion, Leanne Howlett has won the 2020 Mental Health Star Award by the West Midlands Combined Authority’s annual Thrive Awards.

Leanne was nominated and shortlisted for the Individual Category for the Coventry, Warwickshire County Council, North Warwickshire, Rugby, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Stratford upon Avon and Redditch area.

Leanne’s the founder of ‘By Your Side’, a service user forum aimed at helping support parents with perinatal mental health (PMH) problems during pregnancy or in the year following the birth of their child. Since recovering from PMH illness, Leanne’s worked tirelessly to challenge the PMH stigma that prevents parents seeking early help and hosts a Stay and Play for mums who were current patients of the PMHT or recently discharged to have a neutral space when received peer support.

Leanne said:

“When I experienced postnatal depression following the birth of my son I found it really hard to accept the support I needed because of the stigma and lack of awareness surrounding perinatal mental illness.

“As soon as I was well again I knew I wanted to do something to raise awareness and also to provide support to other parents who are going through what I did. I am so proud of what we have achieved with By Your Side in the last two years.”

The regional award formally recognises those individuals whose selfless efforts have left a lasting impression on the lives of others and who have made a significant contribution to improving health inequalities and mental health across the West Midlands.

“My experience was how hopeless life can feel. I thought it would be the happiest year of my life when my baby was born but it really wasn’t. I would get up and go out to lots of baby classes and put on a smile and pretend everything was okay but inside I was literally falling apart.

“With the extra support in place things did start to look up, it was a slow journey. If I hadn’t had support from the Perinatal Mental Health team that I needed I would never have seen the light.” She added.

You can hear more about Leanne’s Story on post-natal depression on NHS England and NHS Improvement YouTube channel, read more here and find out more about ‘By Your Side’.