Families of babies cared for at Glan Clwyd Hospital’s Neonatal Unit have supported a new drive to support the mental health of families with neonates receiving care on the unit.

Mums, dads and babies enjoyed a tea party on the unit to put the first messages on the unit’s “tree of hope”.

Former patients and their families were invited to join staff from the unit and representatives from the Health Board’s Perinatal Mental Health team to share advice and guidance on mental health support.

The party was held as part of a new pledge from the Health Board’s Neonatal Services to improve the mental wellbeing of families with babies in neonatal care across North Wales.

The Tree of Hope is a permanent fixture on the neonatal unit where families can share their thoughts and feelings on stickers, providing a morale boost to other parents and siblings visiting their loved ones.

Catrin O’Hara, one of the parents who attended the party, had her twins Lucy and Jack cared for on the unit between August and November 2018.

She said that being able to see messages of encouragement from other families would have a positive effect on the wellbeing of visitors to the unit.

Catrin said: “I think it’s really important that more is done to support parents on the unit, especially dads and other family members, not just mums.

“The messages to others are so important – we were here for three months with our twins, and being able to see that others have the same experiences as you is a big help.”

As part of closer working arrangements, the Health Board’s Perinatal Mental Health Team now holds regular appointments to catch up with the families of patients at the Health Board’s three neonatal units in Ysbyty Gwynedd, Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor.

Additional wellbeing support is also provided by the Neomates support group, where families are encouraged to share experiences and offer support to each other.

And staff on the units are putting greater focus on structured support and referrals for the mental health of families with babies receiving care.

Caren Radcliffe, Neonatal Unit Manager at Glan Clwyd Hospital, said: “It’s being recognised more and more that parents can struggle with the arrival of a new baby, and even more so one admitted into a neonatal unit.

“We’ve got a much greater focus now on ensuring both parents and their families are supported.

“We’re working together with our dedicated perinatal mental health team to help families access their support, so that we can better assess and support their wellbeing.

“Our staff are sharing more literature on mental health with families, and spending more time to sit down with families to help them understand and share their feelings.

“We’re trying to make it so mental health isn’t a taboo subject, and help people receive information on the support which is out there.”

The tea party was held as part of celebrations for Neonatal Mental Health Week.