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The Open University, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Greater Manchester Police unite to launch perinatal mental health toolkit

A toolkit has been designed to enhance support for maternal mental health in the workplace as a result of a research study conducted by The Open University (OU), Manchester Metropolitan University and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Association of Women in Policing.

The study, a collaboration between Dr. Sarah-Jane Lennie and Dr. Keely Duddin from The Open University and Dr. Krystal Wilkinson from Manchester Metropolitan University, sheds light on the challenges faced by those experiencing perinatal mental illness within the context of policing employment.

Perinatal mental illness refers to a range of specific conditions affecting individuals during pregnancy and up to a year post-birth. This includes anxiety disorders, pre- and post-natal depression, post-partum psychosis, perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorder, tokophobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the NHS, one in five women and one in ten men experience mental illness in the perinatal period.

The research team interviewed 18 men and women with lived experience of perinatal mental illness (either themselves or their partner) whilst employed in UK Policing.

Through these interviews and a multi-stakeholder focus group, researchers found that there is a lack of awareness around perinatal mental illness in the workplace, this includes who it affects and the specific conditions and symptoms.

The study also revealed that elements of working in a police organisation, like exposure to traumatic events, could also negatively influence mental illness trajectories.

Launched during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 (Monday 29 April to Sunday 5 May), a new toolkit has been written for GMP supervisors to better support new and expectant parents with their mental health.

The policing-specific toolkit provides line managers with a step-by-step flow-chart to guide the supervisor through each stage of the maternity and/or paternity journey in a way that maximises the likelihood of mental health-related disclosures and a supportive organisational response.

Dr Sarah-Jane Lennie, Lecturer in Policing Organisation and Practice at the OU, said:

As an ex-Greater Manchester Police officer, it is wonderful to see GMP and the Association of Women in Policing committing to the mental wellbeing of police parents and taking active steps to support them. Too often mental health is overlooked in the busy and challenging world of policing.  

“I am proud to see our research making an impact and I send my thanks to all the participants who engaged with our study and made this possible. Together we can make a difference.”

Dr Krystal Wilkinson, Associate Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:

Whilst most organisations have provisions around the transition to parenthood, linked to legislative requirements, perinatal mental health is generally overlooked in policy and practice – in organisations of all sizes, and in different sectors.  We are so grateful to GMP AWP for partnering with the research team and leading the way on this agenda for other organisations to follow.  We’ve already had some really encouraging discussions with employers in other industries who are keen to adapt the learnings.”

Dr Keely Duddin, Lecturer in Policing Organisation and Practice at the OU, said:

As a former police staff member, I commend the launch of the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit. This initiative addresses a critical need in supporting the well-being of police parents, often overlooked in the demanding world of policing. It’s inspiring to see our research making a tangible impact, setting a precedent for organisations to prioritise perinatal mental health.

“Together, we’re not just addressing a need; we’re fostering a culture of understanding and support for police parents, ensuring they can navigate parenthood alongside their professional responsibilities with confidence and resilience.”

Charlotte Layton Director of Human Resources at Greater Manchester Police, said:

I am proud of the work that the Greater Manchester Police Association of Women in Policing has undertaken in conjunction with Manchester Metropolitan University and The Open University to develop this toolkit in support of those who may be experiencing perinatal mental health problems.

“Understanding better the workplace factors that may contribute to the development of mental health illness allows us to better consider on an individual basis how we can truly support women both during their pregnancy and afterwards as they plan to return to work. Sadly, we know that there continues to be stigma around mental health, however we also know that where workplaces have specific policies, toolkits or guidance in place this can help improve both our awareness and improve trust in organisations meaning individuals are more likely to share their concerns and experiences.  

“I want to thank the GMP Association of Women in Policing, The Open University and Manchester Metropolitan University for their continued work in this area and I look forward to seeing the positive impact this will have across our workforce.”

This article was originally published on OU news, read the original article.

Image © North Yorkshire Police