NCT announces new mental health peer support project

Released on: 04 March 2016

An innovative peer support project to improve women’s mental health around the time of pregnancy has been announced by NCT.

The scheme, funded by the Department of Health's Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development Fund, sees the parent charity teaming up with the Institute of Health Visitors (iHV) to recruit and train peer supporters.

These supporters will be women who have experienced perinatal mental health issues who are trained to help other women in similar situations. The project aims to develop a safe, effective and sustainable model of peer support.

Mental health problems affect at least 1 in 10 women during pregnancy or early parenthood. Women can experience a range of conditions, including antenatal or postnatal depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and postpartum psychosis (recently portrayed on EastEnders). The impact can be devastating for the whole family.

Sarah McMullen, Head of Research, NCT, said:

“We know that women who are suffering from perinatal mental health problems can gain huge support from other women who have been through similar experiences themselves. Trained peer supporters have the potential to be real agents for change - promoting positive mental health in their communities, raising awareness, and supporting women if they need to engage with specialist services.”

The scheme uses NCT’s established peer support programme and national volunteer network, combined with iHV’s experience of training perinatal mental health champions. Volunteers will be recruited and trained in three areas of England initially and will go on to deliver one-to-one and group-based support in the community.

The project builds upon NCT’s involvement with the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and NCT’s #beyondbabyblues campaign, which is raising awareness of perinatal mental health illness and calling for improved services across the UK.