The Princess of Wales has described as “amazing” a service for mothers that integrates support for their physical and mental needs, and appeared to suggest it should be replicated by other communities.
Kate appeared impressed during her visit to a children’s centre in west London which takes a “holistic” approach to care, providing perinatal mental health support alongside services like breastfeeding classes or mother and toddler groups.
Her visit to the Colham Manor Children’s Centre in Hillingdon to meet staff and clients was made in her role as patron of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance – a charity and network of more than 100 organisations helping women affected by issues like depression during or after their pregnancies.
In a touching moment, as the country prepares to remember its war dead on Remembrance Sunday, Kate gave her poppy to a little boy she met as she was leaving the centre.
The princess knelt down and chatted to the youngster who looked to be around four years old and could not take his eyes off the red paper flower.
During her tour of the centre Kate joined a group of mothers with their children, affectionately touching the leg of a 10-month-old boy, and asked the group “Do you think there’s a stigma attached to reaching out?”
Mother-of-five Shanitta Campbell, 34, from Hounslow, who was holding her boisterous five-month-old son, replied: “It’s hard to reach out, but once you do you can get the support you need.”
During a roundtable discussion with health workers, midwives and other professionals working at the centre, the princess said: “It is amazing what you’ve achieved… How easy is it for other communities to replicate what’s going on here? Is it doable?”
Dr Chrissy Jayarajah, a consultant perinatal psychiatrist with Hillingdon Perinatal Services, replied with a laugh: “Absolutely.”
Six centres, funded by the London Borough of Hillingdon, integrate mental health care alongside the usual services and collaborate with the NHS and voluntary organisations.
They have proved popular with mothers, many of whom are not referred by their GPs but learn about the service through friends or in their communities.
Kate said of her meeting with the mothers: “I was chatting to mums, lots of different life experiences, different experiences of engaging with their community here, but also the community services in general, and I think a real appreciation, I suppose, of what’s happening here.”
She added that the parents were “… able to form trusting relationships with the staff that are here but then that opens up a whole network of support services that they didn’t know existed”.
She went on: “I think if you can join the dots to help mums know the sort of provision that is here, and be able to provide it in a holistic way, which is what seems to be so successful here, it does work.
“But also I heard from mums where this type of provision… when it is not in place there’s a lack of confidence, not only in themselves but in the futures of their children.
“So it’s really enforced the importance of places like this for communities and families and also for their kids and the next generation.”