Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

Monday 1 – Sunday 7 May 2023

Written by Katie, Touchstone


What is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week?

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is a week-long campaign dedicated to talking about mental health problems before, during and after pregnancy.

The week is all about:

  • raising public and professional awareness of perinatal mental health problems
  • advocating for women and families impacted by it
  • changing attitudes
  • helping families access the information, care and support they need to recover.

Why is raising awareness so important?

  • Around 1 in 5 women experience mental health concerns during pregnancy and the 1st year of parenthood.
  • 70% will hide or underplay their illness
  • Perinatal mental health problems can have a long-term impact on a woman’s self-esteem and relationships with partners and family members.
  • Perinatal mental health problems can have an adverse impact on the interaction between a mother and her baby, affecting the child’s emotional, social and cognitive development.
  • Maternal suicide is the leading cause of direct pregnancy related death in the 1st year following birth
  • Currently, large numbers of women are not receiving the support they need.

How are Touchstone getting involved?

Touchstone are proud to be one of the partner organisations for Safe Spaces, this service is led by mental health charities The Cellar Trust and Mind in Bradford. Safe Spaces offers same-day crisis support for anyone aged seven and over from Bradford District and Craven who need urgent help with their emotional and mental wellbeing.  This could include experiencing severe anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, intense depression or feelings of disassociation.

For more information on Safe Spaces and how to make a referral please check the Healthy Minds website.

In my new role as the Perinatal Lead, I am responsible for raising awareness of perinatal mental health across the partnership to ensure that the needs of parents and families who access Safe Spaces are met during times of crisis in their lives and their voices are truly heard.  Safe Spaces workers will navigate the current crisis while prioritising the perinatal mental health needs of women and families, and proactively encourage them to seek specialist help.

Another important part of my role is to raise awareness of perinatal mental health amongst other professionals who work across the city.  Everyone who comes into contact with women before, during or after pregnancy has the opportunity to provide mental health support. I have been busy connecting with parent and family facing organisations and groups, such as ‘play and stay’ and breastfeeding support groups. Lack of social support and fear of stigma are two contributing factors that prevent women from receiving adequate care for perinatal mental illness.

Therefore it is vital that new and expectant parents have the opportunity to meet with their peers and feel safe and comfortable to talk about what they are experiencing and how this is impacting their mental health and wellbeing. I have been helping groups to facilitate conversations around perinatal mental health, encouraging parents to seek expert help if needed, providing up to date information on specialist services. There are some fabulous perinatal support services in Bradford including, Bradford Doulas, HomeStart, Roshni Ghar, Family Action perinatal support service and Little Minds Matter.

I am an active member of the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Steering group (set up by Act as One, Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership) which aims to improve experiences and outcomes of the pregnancy and birth journey across Bradford District and Craven.

The group has involvement of many professionals across the city including midwifes and health visitors. This Maternal Mental Awareness Week we have come together to plan a week of activities to raise public and professional awareness of perinatal mental health, with a focus across Bradford and Airedale hospitals. Members of the steering group have planned ‘tea and trolley talks’ across the maternity units and information stalls around the hospitals for example.

In the UK, we take it for granted that all women will receive the support they need to look after their own physical health and that of their babies during pregnancy and the first year after birth. Across the week we will promote for the mental health of all women to be monitored, discussed and treated in the same way as her physical health during this crucial time. It is our aim is to help reduce stigma, spread good practice and help parents and families impacted by perinatal mental health problems to feel seen, heard and supported.

Where can I get support?

You can find information about perinatal mental health problems, including possible causes, treatments and support options on the Mind and Healthy Minds websites:

Perinatal and postnatal mental health – Mind

Healthy Minds

Sharing trauma for mental health

Sharing trauma for mental health

Written by Yasmeen, Senior Support Worker, The Cellar Trust


As mental illness is on the rise and the awareness is spreading far and wide, I have taken this opportunity to express my battle with mental illness. In 2014 I had a nervous breakdown, the sheer pressure of keeping up the pretence of being the perfect wife, mother, daughter and sibling all the while knowing what had happened to me when I was a child.

I was sexually molested at the age of 8. My abuser was my first cousin, 10 years older than me. Someone who had gained everyone’s trust and respect. I was extremely afraid of him, I couldn’t escape him. From being a happy active child, I became withdrawn. He intimidated me for years, the fear of being disowned by my family if I shared anything with them kept me silent. He would show me knives in passing. He would tell me I am worthless, who would believe me?

Growing up in a densely populated Pakistani community was not so easy. Family gatherings meant my abuser was present, the constant reminder of what he put me through made me feel bitter, on the other hand I was expected to mingle with him and his family as though no abuse had taken place.

It took me just over 30 years to expose my abuser, I finally had the inner strength to speak out. My daughter was approaching 8, I was becoming erratic with overprotecting her. I was in constant fear of my abuser, in case he saw my daughter. I would avoid family gatherings or not take my daughter with me. For all the years I remained silent I felt dirty, I felt it was my fault, I felt ashamed, and I truly believed my immediate family will feel ashamed resulting in disowning me. In fact, the opposite happened, my mum, who is the most important person in my life believed me. The overwhelming feeling of relief gave me more strength. She finally understood why I behaved oddly in the presence of my abuser.

Since the day I exposed him, my confidence has come back. I have gained immense confidence. I broke my silence for my daughter and for the vulnerable people out there who have been abused.

It took me over 30 years to break my silence, the mental suffering was not worth it. If you are in a similar situation to me, please don’t suffer in silence as this is detrimental to your mental health and you deserve so much better. Please reach out to someone you trust and seek support


For further help and support:

Bradford Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Survivors Service – Supporting women and girls who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives.

Ben’s place at Survivors West Yorkshire – Specialise support for men who have suffered sexual abuse.

Bradford Survive and Thrive – A Family Action and WomenCentre partnership providing early intervention and prevention, specialist work with children and young people, recovery and confidence building and emotional support.

Anah Project – Experienced and confidential support service for BAME women fleeing any form of abuse.

Men Reaching Out – Support all men with any aspect of male domestic abuse. They also have support available to help male victims from South Asian backgrounds.

Rape Crisis national helpline is open every day of the year 24 hours a day. Call free on 0808 500 222. A charity working to end sexual violence and abuse.

Trust Therapies – The Cellar Trust’s counselling and therapy service, to help individuals explore and cope with a range of emotional challenges.



The Cellar Trust wins top UK health award

Shipley-based charity The Cellar Trust has won a major national award for its work supporting people across Bradford District and Craven, and the surrounding areas who are struggling with their mental health to live well and independently in the community.

Following a rigorous selection and assessment process, The Cellar Trust was chosen from more than 400 charities across the UK as one of the 10 winners of the 2023 GSK IMPACT Awards which are delivered in partnership with leading health and care charity The King’s Fund. Now in their 26th year, the awards are a mark of excellence in the charity sector, designed to recognise the outstanding work of small and medium sized charities working to improve people’s health and wellbeing in the UK. This year winners will receive £40,000 in unrestricted funding as well as expert support and leadership development provided by The King’s Fund.

Bradford is one of the 20% most deprived local authorities in England, with issues such as poverty, unemployment and poor housing, all of which can lead to poor mental health. Bradford has amongst the highest levels of severe and common mental health problems nationally and the proportion of people sectioned under the Mental Health Act is twice the national average.

The Cellar Trust (TCT) was established in the mid-1980s following the closure of the mental health hospitals to support people with long term mental health problems to engage in meaningful activity. The charity has since expanded to deliver crisis support and other services across Bradford and the surrounding areas of Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven. It now works in close partnership with local health services and other voluntary organisations. Last year it supported around 7500 people through its services.

TCT has teamed up with other local charities including Mind in Bradford, to run Safe Spaces, a service to support people in emotional distress who may also be self-harming or having suicidal thoughts via same day one to one support to help deescalate the crisis. Support is offered in-person or by phone, with support workers based in Bradford and Keighley and crisis drop in cafes (hosted by other charity partners) in eight locations across the district. In the year ending March 2022 the service delivered 10,983 sessions of support to 1,749 people.

TCT’s Pathways to Employment service provides support to those with severe or enduring mental health problems to help them move towards or into paid employment, and the charity also offers training to employers on how to support people returning to work.

The Award judges were particularly struck by the charity’s pioneering approach to embedding ‘peer support’ across its work. The majority of TCT’s services are delivered by people who have experienced mental health issues and who are able to share their own knowledge and practical advice to help others. The charity has developed its own accredited training in the use of peer support and its model has been recognised by NHS England as best practice for working in mental health.

The award win comes at a time when many charities find themselves working in a uniquely challenging environment. The long-term consequences of Covid and the current cost of living crisis are having a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of many communities, public services are under additional pressure, and charity finances have been hit hard. Despite this, The Cellar Trust has continued to innovate and expand its services.

Working in partnership with three other local charities – Project 6, HALE and Carers Resource – TCT is part of the Multi Agency Support Team (MAST). The team works with two local NHS hospitals to provide a range of support on mental health, alcohol misuse, social prescribing and frailty. The team works in A&Es and across the wards at Bradford Royal Infirmary and Airedale General Hospitals and also provides follow up support for people in the community. Last year, the MAST team supported 2,662 people across the two hospitals. After three months, only 14% of people reported they had re-presented at A&E.

Lisa Weaks, Senior Associate at The King’s Fund, said: “The Cellar Trust has grown quickly to develop a wide range of services supporting people with persistent or severe mental health issues in an area where people are experiencing many challenges. In the process it has created a sector-leading model of peer support and has influenced improvements in local and national mental health services. Its one team approach to working with a variety of voluntary sector partners has enabled the charity to help reduce demand on local health services and led to significant improvements in people’s mental wellbeing.”

Commenting on the award, Kim Shutler, CEO of The Cellar Trust, said: “We are delighted to win this prestigious national award. The Cellar Trust came from humble beginnings starting in a cellar in Bradford and although we have grown and developed over the years, we remain incredibly committed to our local area. It has, and continues to be a very challenging time for charities, and we are incredibly grateful to the team, partners and our supporters who help us carry on the vital work we deliver in the community.”

One of the key aims of the GSK IMPACT Awards programme is to develop leaders in the charity sector and all winners are invited to build on their success and take part in a tailored leadership development programme run by The King’s Fund.