HSE Dublin South Kildare & West Wicklow Community Healthcare launches 'Her Shoes' - promoting awareness and understanding of perinatal mental health

HSE Press Release: Wednesday 5th May 2021

“As many as 1 in 5 women have mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth. It can happen to anyone. We want to reassure them that it’s ok to need support and to help them find it.”

The HSE Dublin South, Kildare & West Wicklow Community Healthcare today (Wednesday 5th May 2021) launches ‘Her Shoes’, an initiative to promote awareness and understanding of mental health issues during the perinatal period (the time during pregnancy and the first year after a baby is born). The initiative aims to raise awareness and reduce stigma by amplifying the voices of those who have lived with perinatal mental health issues. It is funded under Connecting for Life Kildare and West Wicklow and was developed in response to the high level of stigma associated with perinatal mental health issues in the region – which can act as a barrier to women and their families seeking support.

The project is supported by real-life video testimonies of three women who have experienced perinatal mental health issues, these have proven so impactful they are now being shared across national HSE social media channels in order to benefit women across the country.

Perinatal mental health issues are those which complicate pregnancy and the first year after the baby is born. As many as 1 in 5 women have mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth. It can happen to anyone. Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in pregnancy. These affect about 10 to 15 out of every 100 pregnant women. Just like at other times in life, you can have many different types of mental illness and the severity can vary.

The initiative has three goals:

  • To educate women, families, communities, and professionals about perinatal mental health and the signs of mental health issues in this period;
  • To tell them that it’s OK to need help and where to seek it;
  • To let people know what supports are available and how to access them.

You’re not alone

Three powerful videos telling the real-life stories of women affected by perinatal mental health issues support the initiative which will feature on HSE social media channels.

The videos feature three women - Lititia Janse Van Rensburg, Michelle Daly Hayes, and Amy Byrne – who themselves experienced perinatal mental health issues, and professionals who work in the area, Dr Cat Hinds (Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist); Dr Brian Kennedy (GP) and Maria Gibbons (Perinatal Mental Health Midwife).

Amy, Lititia, and Michelle have bravely and generously shared their personal stories in the hope of helping others. Their message is loud and clear – you are not alone.

Amy Byrne, mum of two from Dublin, said: “This project has given my PND journey a meaning and a voice. I want to use my voice to ensure no other woman feels alone. My message to women is that there is no blame or shame. Please don't suffer in silence.”

Watch her video here

Michelle Daly Hayes, who has two children and is from Limerick, said:  

“This project has been so close to my heart because I know first-hand some of the stigma around maternal mental health and if it helps even one new mum or mum to cope and to ask for help it is worth any effort. 

“I guess you could say I am one of those extroverted introverts who seems to have it all under control but in reality I found myself despairing and anxious. So for me raising the profile of services and removing the stigma around maternal mental health and post-partum depression is really important. 

“There’s a lovely quote that says when a baby is born, a mother is too. We are all taking it a day at a time, sometimes the picture-perfect view we give the world belies our own fragile mental health. The best gift you can give any baby is a mum that is well in herself. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Her story is here

Lititia Janse Van Rensburg, mother of three children living in Limerick, said of her video: “It was so uplifting that someone listened to me, but not only listened, they made me feel OK not to be OK and that I will get there and there is no shame at all.

“My message to women is you don’t need to suffer in silence.”

Her Shoes was initiated by a local inter-agency group in Kildare West Wicklow which is working to improve mental health outcomes for women in the region, and developed in partnership with The Coombe Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service; Limerick Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service; The National Clinical Programme in Specialist Perinatal Mental Health; The National Office for Suicide Prevention; HSE Communications Division, and the Office of Nursing and Midwifery Services Director, HSE.

If anyone who is planning a pregnancy, is pregnant or is a new mother feels that they need some support with their mental health they can speak to their GP, their mental health midwife at their maternity hospital, or their public health nurse.

Kevin Brady, Head of Mental Health Services, Dublin South, Kildare & West Wicklow Community Healthcare said:

“Perinatal mental health is a major public health issue. Encouraging women to talk about how they feel and working to reduce stigma is key to tackling the issue. Community Healthcare Dublin South and Kildare West Wicklow were delighted to fund and support this project and we hope that it benefits women and families everywhere.”

Niamh Crudden, ‘Her shoes’ Project lead, Dublin South, Kildare & West Wicklow Community Healthcare stated:

“We hope that by connecting women and families with Amy, Litita and Michelle’s powerful and compelling stories that we can positively change social attitudes and behaviour to reduce stigma.  This will enable women to feel more empowered and confident to seek help when they feel they need it. More conversations about this issue will help to improve outcomes for women, babies and families. ”

Dr Sabrina Coyle, Senior Clinical Psychologist in Specialist Perinatal Mental Health, The Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital said: “It is time to move away from the idealisation of motherhood which has long been portrayed in popular media and to move towards a more realistic perspective. While pregnancy and new motherhood can bring great joy and fulfilment, it also represents a woman’s greatest lifetime risk of experiencing a mental health difficulty. This initiative aims to normalise a range of perinatal experiences and open up the potential for honest conversations. In bringing our attention to the potential negative impact of perinatal mental health difficulties on mothers and babies, we can work towards reducing stigma and facilitating ease of access to appropriate services.”

Dr. Catherine Hinds, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist, in Specialist Perinatal Mental Health, The Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital

“When people think about Perinatal Mental Illness, they usually think of depression and anxiety.  It also includes any type of mental illness occurring during pregnancy or after birth, such as eating disorders, OCD, personality disorders, PTSD, schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder.

“A lot of perinatal mental illness can be managed by the GP, but some more severe cases may require specialist input. Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Services offer assessment and individualised treatment to mothers and their babies across Ireland.

“It is important for women not to be afraid to ask for help to access the right support.  Getting the right mental health treatment can mean better outcomes for women and their babies in the short and long-term.”


Last updated on: 05 / 05 / 2021