Emerging from ice and water, gasping for breath, mud dripping from every part of me…. and who is with me? Nine of my fantastic NCT colleagues – muddy, cold, tired, but smiling (mostly). Why? We asked ourselves that question many times on the 22nd May, as we hauled each other through, up and over Tough Mudder’s 13 miles and 25 obstacles.
Peer support was important that day. We couldn’t have finished without shoulders to stand on, arms to lift us, words to encourage us, and humour to keep our spirits high. And a not insignificant amount of swearing.
But peer support was mostly on our minds because we had parents in mind. This was just one of many events taking place across NCT’s incredible network during 2016, raising funds to support our perinatal mental health work.
This work is an area that means a great deal to me. I have been deeply moved by the personal stories, the passion and the evidence shared by those involved in the incredible efforts to improve perinatal mental health services across the UK. And excited by the prospect of transformation within mental health services.
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) has been instrumental in bringing people together, building compelling arguments, and creating a real energy for change. Individual stories have been so important in giving a powerful voice to the cause. Emily Slater of the MMHA on stage at NCT’s national conference. Rosey Wren and the #PNDhour community. Amazing bloggers and service user reps, who are too numerous to list (but Eve Canavan first drew me in with her brilliant mix of raw honesty and humour).
As part of an organisation supporting thousands of expectant and new parents every year, I personally felt a huge responsibility to make sure we were doing our bit – to drive improvements in perinatal mental health services across the UK through our campaign and influencing work, and through our own information and support for parents. Thankfully working amongst a movement of equally motivated volunteers, practitioners and colleagues.
And so there is a lot happening! The #BeyondBabyBlues campaign was a great success. And we are thrilled to be getting going with our Department of Health funded ‘Parents in Mind‘ project – working with the Institute of Health Visiting to develop a safe, effective and sustainable model of perinatal mental health peer support. More on this in another post. We’re also working up new tools, resources and workshops for volunteers and practitioners across our branch network and wider parent communities. And we have research collaborations underway to inform future developments, with a focus on birth trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The need for action is clear. We need to do all we can to promote positive emotional wellbeing during the perinatal period, break the stigma surrounding mental health, and to help new parents get the support they need.
Want to support the perinatal mental health fundraising challenge? Check out the #BigPush – volunteer led 5km buggy push events which bring parents together to raise funds with the company of others. Why not take part in an event or create your own locally!