Kent

Mother and baby mental health unit to open in Dartford

Zoe Gibson
Image caption Zoe Gibson said the new mother and baby unit would be "a home away from home"

A new mother who was forced to spend months far from home with mental health problems has been helping design a new mother and baby residential unit.

The new unit, which opens in Dartford in the summer, will support mothers from Kent, Surrey and Sussex experiencing perinatal ill health.

Previously, vulnerable women needing specialist care have faced being placed in a unit up to 200 miles from home.

Zoe Gibson said the new unit would be "a home away from home".

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The Canterbury mother-of-two was admitted to a specialist mother and baby unit in south London six years ago after the birth of her first child.

She stayed there for five months with her son, at a time when she felt "her own mind was attacking her", but the unit was a 100-mile round trip from her home, which meant it was difficult for her partner to visit.

"That unit was amazing. However, it was bit clinical inside.

"You could hear patients from the psychiatric ward upstairs screaming and it wasn't as nice and cosy inside as the new Kent one will be," she recalled.

The new specialist eight-bed unit in Dartford will be the first mother and baby unit in the south-east of England.

It will mean that women who experience mental ill health during pregnancy, or in the year after giving birth, will be able to get the support and care they need while also continuing to be with their baby.

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