Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week 4-10 May

Supporting Mums during difficult times.

Social distancing and isolation are placing enormous strain on families, especially those already suffering with poor mental health, physical illness and financial hardship. It is also becoming clear that extreme isolation is having a detrimental impact on parental mental health. We are seeing more and more families struggling, reduced social interaction and additional money worries are leaving many parents with very small children in quite a dark place.

Amelia’s story.

We first met, Amelia towards the end of her pregnancy, after she had expressed concerns that she was feeling very anxious about her pregnancy and how she would cope once the baby was born. With her partner working very long hours and no family close by, Amelia was also feeling very isolated. Things became even more stressful when they found themselves homeless one week before the baby was due. They also received some devastating news from the hospital that the baby had some medical complications. It felt like her world was collapsing around her and she was incredibly anxious and scared about the future.

Home-Start volunteer, Sue, offers Amelia friendship and companionship, something that she had been desperately craving. Sue listens to Amelia’s concerns and helps her forge a way forwards. She also helped secure accommodation for the family, as it was all a little too much for a heavily pregnant Amelia. Home-Start and the local community rallied around to furnish the new house before baby arrived.

With Sue’s encouragement and support, Amelia had been managing really well since the baby was born but then Coronavirus struck.

After working hard to help Amelia feel less isolated, Coronavirus has meant that the family have felt incredibly isolated once more. Family who live overseas are unable to visit and help out with the baby who is due to have surgery in a matter of weeks. The baby is vulnerable so the family are too scared to leave their house. Work has also dried up for Amelia’s partner so there is added financial pressure and tensions are running high. All of this has taken a toll on Amelia’s mental health and she is struggling to cope with the shame and fear she feels.

Both Sue and Home-Start are continuing to offer frequent emotional support to Amelia via phone and video call. We are also delivering essential baby and food supplies and have referred the family to a local food support service. We are doing all we can to ensure that the family has the support they need but we are only too aware of the devastating and long-lasting impact that Coronavirus will have on families just like Amelia’s.

Ava’s story.

Ava was referred to Home-Start at a late stage in her pregnancy. She was under the supervision of the peri-natal mental health team and was incredibly anxious. Homeless and without family support, Ava was incredibly lonely and scared about how she would cope once the baby was born.

She was housed in temporary accommodation by the Council and Home-Start helped furnish the house and make it as much as a home as possible.

Ava started seeing her volunteer once a week and quickly formed a close relationship. Ava finds Rachel compassionate and empathetic and she has been a great help in building up her confidence. Rachel is like a friend to Ava, offering her emotional and practical support when she needs it most. She has been instrumental in helping Ava navigate the benefit application process. With Rachel’s support and encouragement, Ava had been making great progress and coping well with life as a new mum.

However Coronavirus has taken a toll on Ava’s mental health. Her anxiety is sky high and she has not left the house in seven weeks. Imagine being confined to your house, not interacting with the outside world and entertaining a baby 24/7? This kind of extreme isolation has left Ava in a very dark place.

Rachel and Home-Start are continuing to offer friendship and companionship via video call. Just seeing a friendly face and lending a listening ear can make a huge difference. We have also been delivering food and baby supplies to the house and referred the family to specialist support services. Ava tells us that she doesn’t know how she would be coping without Home-Start.

“Thank you for everything. I don’t know how to say, you and my volunteer did lots of things for my son and me. I am feeling less alone. It means a lot to me. My family have not stayed behind me like you guys are doing.”

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The implications of the pandemic to the health and wellbeing of families will be devastating. With reduced perinatal mental health services, many families are falling through the safety net. Our energies will focus on ensuring parents feel well informed and supported during these anxious times.

In the coming weeks and months, we will work harder than ever to find ways to make sure our families continue to have the support they need. But it is an uphill struggle. We are fully expecting to see more and more of our families start to struggle and more and more families needing our support. If you would like to support our work please consider donating to our Emergency Coronavirus Fund.