Funded by the Department of Health, Parents in Mind trains local volunteers to support women experiencing emotional health difficulties in pregnancy and within the two years after birth.
What is Parents in Mind and peer to peer support?
Who might want to access the service?
Why is the project important?
Who is delivering Parents in Mind, maternal mental health support?
Meet one of our volunteers
How do I access the Parents in Mind service?
How can I volunteer as a Parents in Mind peer supporter?
When and how often does the service run?
Want to know more?
‘Talk and support, mum to mum’
Parents in Mind offers emotional support for women who are experiencing low mood, anxiety or poor mental health during pregnancy or within the first year after birth.
Many mums find it difficult to open up about how they are feeling and continue to suffer in silence. Parents in Mind aims to improve women’s emotional wellbeing and to reduce isolation within the community, by providing a safe space to talk and good quality support from a trained volunteer.
Building on the peer support offered by NCT for many years, the Parents in Mind project wants to see more women and families be able to access the support that they need at what can be a very challenging time. Well trained volunteer peer supporters offer a listening ear and non-judgemental support, helping women to develop coping strategies and to access local services.
Parents in Mind can help women who are feeling down or anxious during pregnancy or during the first year after childbirth, or who are struggling emotionally as a result of pregnancy and/or early parenthood. There doesn’t need to be a formal diagnosis. It might be the first step for mums who have found it hard to talk about how they are feeling, or who want to meet other women who are experiencing similar challenges.
Maternal mental health issues affect at least 1 in 10 women during pregnancy or early parenthood. Conditions include anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and postpartum psychosis. Many women don’t get the support they need and suffer in silence, often until reaching crisis point. There is a very real stigma surrounding mental health issues, and many people find it incredibly difficult to be honest about how they’re feeling. The effects can be devastating for the whole family. Trained perinatal mental health peer supporters can be real agents for change - promoting positive mental health in their communities, raising awareness and supporting women experiencing perinatal mental illness to engage with specialist services.
We have worked in collaboration with the Institute of Health Visitors to train Parents in Mind peer support trainers and to develop a training programme for volunteer peer supporters.
Peer supporters are volunteers with lived experience of maternal mental health difficulties and who are giving their time to support a woman who is going through a similar situation to them. They are supported in their volunteering journey through high quality training, clinical support and regular group reflection sessions. They build on their own experiences and training to develop skills and confidence in active listening, boundary setting, signposting, group hosting and other non-therapeutic skills. They have formed their own peer group and are committing at least two hours per week to the service.
Meet one of our volunteers tells us about the service, from her perspective.
“Little did I know when I signed up to be a volunteer peer supporter that it would be such an emotional rollercoaster.
I don’t think I truly appreciated or understood the cleansing, yet often soul-searching, process that I was going to participate in on a weekly basis with a bunch of strangers that had three things in common: women, mothers and we have all experienced an episode of postpartum or antenatal mental health difficulty.
However, I quickly learnt that there was more to us all than that. Tea and cake bonded us, and tissues and tears led us to be solid friends. Our mental health in pregnancy or early parenthood is the invisible thread that links us, but our joy and mutual love of being able to guide each other through our journeys are the glue.
From the offset, I think the fear of the unknown was the biggest fear we faced. I didn’t want to get it wrong, I didn’t want to mess it up and upset any of our ladies. When I began training, I didn’t know how to start, how to listen, didn’t know how not to butt in and make it all about me. I shouldn’t have worried: I have been exceptionally lucky to have been guided by such a wonderful trainer with her gentle yet firm humour. My manager too, with her kind trusting belief and of course those who I’ve met through the programme.
We have been through the mill as a group of mums and all of us have reached this point in our lives after difficult yet different journeys. But we have made it to the end of our intensive, thought-provoking training together and I know we are all the stronger for it.
For me, the overwhelming factor in this whole process was that I just wanted to help. I just wanted to be able to help one mum go through a really terrible time and not be alone. I wanted to be able to reach out and just let one mum know she had someone by her side. Yes, she was still going to be going through a horrid time. But she wasn’t alone. Like I had been.
Fast forward 10ish weeks and we are “live” and it works! Our ladies are making slow and steady progress – we laugh and they cry, together. The ladies have bonded and grown and our smaller volunteer groups have also bonded further as well. We’ve learnt that anything goes in a session: we are facilitators of recovery. We start each week at the precipice of a mountain and gently nudge the snowball of conversation. Sometimes an avalanche of issues arises and we work through them at a fast pace. However, sometimes we work through at a slow and steady gentle pace chatting about baby’s growth spurts, sex, what to cook for tea and all sorts more. We refer to other services, offer practical solutions, hold babies, pass tissues, but most importantly allow space and an ear for our ladies to spill and process their week.
Through volunteering with parents in mind, I’ve found my place in the world and I finally feel that my PND was for a reason. It’s empowered me to be me. It has no hold over me now: it helps define me but I’m not defined by it anymore.”
You can access the service by getting touch with the local service delivery manager or via a referral from a health or social care professional. In the first instance, the supportive local Parents in Mind team will be available to have a chat about the service and how it might be able to support you. You’ll then get a very warm welcome to the safe space of our local groups or to meet with a volunteer one-to-one.
Please see the areas below to see how to refer yourself to one of the local services.
We are not currently recruiting any new volunteers to train as a Parents in Mind peer supporter. As soon as further opportunities become available, we will promote via our website and social media channels.
We currently offer the service in three locations in England:
Follow our parents in mind blog for regular volunteer updates about the service.
For more information, read our full report.