It’s hard to believe that this time last year, Barack Obama was still President, and the #HiddenHalf campaign wasn’t even an idea. A year is a long time in politics… and a long time at NCT.
In November last year, I joined NCT not quite knowing what was in store. I was excited to join this impressive organisation, which had been there for me when I was pregnant and then coming to terms with my role as a new parent. As a campaigner, I was inspired by the potential that an organisation with 60,000 supporters offered, to influence an area crying out for change.
But the task was challenging – how to turn the complex problems around maternal mental illness into a campaign that could offer a clear and meaningful solution? We started by talking to lots of people – midwives, doctors, health visitors, academics and, most importantly, mums and dads with lived experience of mental health problems. Many talked movingly about their experiences and the sense of loneliness, failure and shame. We heard, over and over, how parents often didn’t realise they were unwell, that they just thought that they were failing, sometimes hiding how they felt out of a sense of shame.
Almost everyone we spoke to had experienced emotional problems for some time before getting any help. During this time, they had struggled on alone, their condition deteriorating. All the while, they were having to function as a parent and care for a new baby.
Last winter, we started to get a sense of where NCT could have a role to play in solving this. The problem that parents were describing to us, of not having their mental health problems acknowledged, was one that lots of NCT’s supporters would recognise.
We had also heard from mothers and health professionals that the six-week check wasn’t fit for purpose. We were hearing that all the focus was on the baby and that mums were often ignored or rushed through. NCT’s Mind the Gap report had identified this problem back in 2015 and it seemed that nothing had changed.
To confirm this, we decided to commission some new research. And the results were shocking. Half of the new mothers we surveyed had experienced some sort of emotional or mental health problem during the perinatal period and nearly half of these had not had their problem identified by a health professional at all.
Our research also confirmed that the six-week check was an opportunity being missed.
And so our task became clear and we set out to get postnatal mental illness out of hiding. Our aim would be to improve postnatal check-ups and get maternal mental health problems out into the open. The #HiddenHalf campaign was born.
#HiddenHalf is already making an impact. So far, nearly 6,000 supporters have signed up to the campaign, 600 have emailed their MP, 6 MPs have asked questions in parliament and lots more have written to Ministers.
This is a great start but it is not enough. We now need to harness the immense and inspiring energy of NCT’s movement. We want every one of the nearly 6,000 #HiddenHalf supporters to email their MP and at least 50 MPs to receive a visit. You can find out how you can help with this in our new #HiddenHalf Influencing Guide.
We want to build a movement for change so that every MP and Minister hears about #HiddenHalf and it becomes the campaign that is talked about in the corridors of Westminster and Whitehall.
There is so much power in the force that is NCT. The job of our team in Euston is to light the touchpaper – but it’s in the hands of the supporters who power our movement to create the pressure for change.
So, now it’s over to you. Join our campaign and together we can harness NCT’s power in numbers to create real and lasting change.