James and Deborah Akinyemi are Patient Specialists in Perinatal Mental Health and are parents to two sons and a daughter. They are also volunteers for the local PANDAS group in Grays, Essex. Despite Deborah having no history of mental health illness, following the birth of their third child, Deborah developed postpartum psychosis. As a supporting partner, James also faced his own mental health challenges.  This is his story:

“Being a partner to somebody suffering from postpartum psychosis after child birth is the most challenging situation any man can face. Shortly after our third child, my wife suffered from postpartum psychosis. This not only affected her, but me as well. During this period, my line manager noticed that I was very confused at work and that I was talking to myself most of the time that I was alone.  This was a very challenging period for me and I suffered low mood. What keep me going on was that I needed to support my wife and most importantly, my three kids. I understood that I had to talk to somebody and find professional help for myself so that I could support my family.”

“I also researched postpartum psychosis so that I could also support my wife with her illness and help her recover through professional support and a care plan.  I believed that I was the only one that was close enough to her to be able to bring back her confidence to start a new life after she was seriously depressed. I encouraged her to talk about the illness to other people after she recovered.”

“I supported my wife to build her career as a Patient Specialist on Perinatal Mental Health.  As members of the Black Ethnic Minority, my wife's qualifications has helped us to give professional presentations about our life experience.  Most Africans who suffer from postpartum psychosis believe that they have been bewitched based on religious beliefs and they don't talk about it nor seek professional help. We hope to educate people about postpartum psychosis and to get professional help.”

“With our personal experience and journey we have contributed to the National Specification document for commissioning perinatal services in London. We have also presented our life experience to a team of health visitors at the Angler Ruskin University, to midwife students at the University of Kingston, and to new mothers at children centres in Essex. Our main focus is to educate others about postpartum psychosis and to encourage referrals to health professionals.”

Looking forward, James and Deborah will be holding a drop-in service at the Thurrock Council to promote the awareness about depression and postpartum psychosis after child birth