Infant Journal
for neonatal and paediatric healthcare professionals

Charity launches UK's first Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week

The first neonatal mental health awareness week will run from 15-21 April, with the aim of inspiring charities and neonatal wards to apply better practice around the mental health of parents and staff.

Leo's, a charity that supports families through premature and traumatic births, the neonatal journey and beyond, has been the driving force in creating the week, which will highlight the long-lasting impacts on the mental health of parents, siblings and grandparents when they have been on a neonatal journey. It will also consider the impact on midwives, neonatal nurses and doctors and allied health professionals such as neonatal occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists who work in neonatal care. There will be a range of activities for parents, staff, charities and organisations to take part in, including fundraising for their chosen neonatal ward or charity, practising mindfulness and random acts of kindness.

Leo's recently launched a nationwide survey to discover just how much of an impact having a sick or premature baby has on families after they leave a neonatal unit, and how health care professionals cope with working in such an emotionally demanding environment. Leo's founder Lottie King says: "Thanks to recent findings from Bliss and The Smallest Things Charity, we know that while on the neonatal unit many families experience mental health issues. However, what we want to know now is how this impacts once they go home. For example, are parents needing to take medication or time off work, or are families struggling because of the strain something like this can put on relationships?

"By understanding this, we hope to inspire the changes needed so that when parents do go home, they can be supported, and their mental health is in a positive place."

Claire Campbell, Senior Neonatal Sister and Leo's Trustee, adds: "Being a neonatal nurse means we don't just care for the baby, we care for the family too. We become so close to the families we care for that if the worst should happen and that baby doesn't make it home, we grieve too.

"We may go home and think for the rest of our evening about the baby we cared for that day. If we are off for a few days, many of us will ring in to check on how the baby is doing, especially if they have been critically unwell.

"It's becoming increasingly important to recognise the effect this can have on staff, and our survey has had an excellent response from the medical community, with midwives, neonatal nurses and doctors and allied health professionals all opening up about the impact their job can have on them."

Neonatal mental health awareness week will seek to engage charitable organisations from across the UK, NHS trusts, neonatal, maternity and perinatal networks and parents, with findings from the survey directing the campaigns for change.

To find out more about the week visit the website.