“I’ll always remember the first time I met a ‘PP lady’. It was a very special day.”
“I had lots of friends who were mums but none of them understood what I was going through. I felt weird, lonely and isolated. When I found the forum I was like ‘Oh my god. People understand.”
Every year it is a moving and inspirational day (you can read about what we covered here). As I listened to the co-ordinators speak to new volunteers I was struck once again by just how important their peer support programme is.
In fact I think their services are a really good example of the life changing benefits that online peer support can provide. Peer support can be valuable for everyone but it is absolutely vital for APP.
Research by APP shows that women desperately want to meet other people who have been through PP, to share symptoms and have time to talk. Partners said the same.
Everyone needs to share stories, to be accepted and understood – especially if you’re going through or recovering from severe mental illness. Unfortunately, because PP is relatively rare, friends and family don’t know what is is or what it feels like. There is unlikely to be someone living near you who has been there. Some people may be scared to speak about their experience for fear of stigma and misunderstanding. For most women the APP Peer Supporter training sessions are the first time they have been in the same room as someone who has also experienced PP.
APP’s forums provide that link. They connect people with hundreds of others who can support them. When someone signs up for APP’s one-to-one email support service they are actively matched with someone who has had a similar experience. The chances of finding that offline are very very small.
There’s not a lot of useful information about PP out there. Googling symptoms or diagnosis can be terrifying. Media stories and opinions can make it even less likely that someone will seek help. Peer supporters can provide a warm signpost to trusted information and take time to answer any questions and help people overcome barriers to finding further support.
Unfortunately, a need for comfort, support and answers is not confined to hospital admissions, medical appointments and therapy sessions. APP’s forums are open 24 hours and provide that consistent thread of care through illness, recovery and beyond.
Recovery from PP can take a long time. A woman may need support long after she has been discharged from hospital or returned to her ‘normal’ life. People around her may assume she is ‘better’. She may not want to admit she’s still finding things hard. Online support services are there for as long as people need them.
Women experiencing or recovering from PP may feel hopeless. They may not be able to envisage a future where things will be different. Peer supporters who have survived PP are proof that people can recover. As well as reassurance, comfort and companionship they provide hope.
You can read more about APP’s online peer support network here.