Aberlour Child Care Trust is supporting Maternal Mental Health Matters Week (29th April-5th May) by sharing the positive befriending journeys of some of the mothers matched by its Perinatal Befriending Support Service in Forth Valley.
Perinatal mental illness is a term used to cover all mental health issues during pregnancy and the first year after birth, including anxiety, depression and psychosis related disorders. Perinatal mental illness affects almost one in three mothers and one in 10 fathers and is one of the leading causes of death for mothers during pregnancy and the year after birth. Perinatal mental illness can also impact on the healthy emotional, cognitive and physical development of the child.
Now in its third year, Maternal Mental Health Matters Week (29th April-5th May) is a week-long campaign organised by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership. This year’s theme is ‘Mums Matter’ which focuses on advocating for mothers affected by mental health issues and directing them to the information and help they need to recover. The week coincides with Maternal Mental Health Month (May) and World Maternal Mental Health Day (1st May).
To help raise awareness of the often-untold distress surrounding perinatal mental health and the different types of support available, Aberlour Child Care Trust has been sharing ‘positive befriending journeys’ of mothers supported by its service.
The Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service provides an invaluable resource for women and their families by matching mothers to be and mothers with volunteer befrienders trained to provide practical and emotional support. The service, which also operates in East Lothian and is currently funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, offers personalised support from conception up until the child’s first birthday to help develop a positive relationship between mother and baby. As well as providing individual support in the family home and community, the volunteer befrienders also help mothers access support from other relevant services in their communities.
Caitlin Armitt was 22 years old when she was referred to the Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service by her Health Visitor. Her mood was very low, she was tearful, and she was struggling even to leave the house. Aberlour matched her with volunteer befriender, Claire MacNab, and Caitlin recently completed her befriending journey with fantastic outcomes.
Caitlin said: “I had suffered with depression in the past, and when my little boy Harrison was born, I struggled with perinatal depression, to the extent that I was suicidal – I thought my family, and my little boy, would be better off without me. When I was referred to Aberlour, I didn’t really know how they could help me – I thought I would never feel happy again. I was soon matched with Claire and over the next few weeks, things started to improve. Claire didn’t give me advice, she didn’t tell me how to be a mother, what she did was listen. She listened to what was worrying me, she didn’t judge, or try to find solutions, she just listened to what I had to say. This is what is so important, when you become a mother, so much in your life changes and things aren’t about you any more, they are about your child. I found that I had lost myself, lost the bubbly person I used to be. Claire helped me find that again. I can confidently say that if it wasn’t for her and the Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service, I wouldn’t be sat here today.”
Claire received support from an Aberlour befriender after struggling with depression following the birth of her little boy. She had such a positive experience that she was inspired to become a befriender herself and was then matched with Caitlin.
Claire said: “I had such a positive befriending journey that I decided to become a befriender myself. You wouldn’t recognise the Caitlin I met at the start of this process; she couldn’t leave the house, she was suicidal, and she had no belief in herself as a mother. Throughout the befriending journey I was there for Caitlin, I listened to her worries and concerns, I held Harrison when she just needed five minutes to herself for a cup of tea. When her mood started to improve, and she was able to leave the house, I went with her to soft play and antenatal classes. Sometimes, you just need a person who is there for you, with no judgement and preconceptions. I am so proud of Caitlin and the journey she has been on. She is a beautiful, confident, incredible mother and I hope her story encourages more mothers with post-natal depression, who feel they can’t cope, who are overwhelmed, or who even just feel a little down, to reach out, ask for help – please don’t suffer in silence.”
Emma Cashmore-Gordon, Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service Manager, said: “Our Perinatal Befriending Support Service offers a person-centred service tailored to each individual family through matching trained volunteer befrienders with new mothers to offer support during pregnancy and up until their baby’s first birthday. Over the past four years we have worked with 275 mothers across Forth Valley and it is our ultimate ambition to roll the service out across Scotland, so that every mother, no matter where they live, has access to personalised support and assistance when and where they need it most.”
A recent report published by the national Managed Clinical Network (MCN) for perinatal mental health outlined recommendations to improve the provision of mental health care for expectant and new mothers and their families. While the Scottish Government has announced more than £50 million is to be spent on improving access to perinatal mental health services, access to specialist and community-based perinatal mental health provision remains a ‘postcode lottery’ for many women across Scotland.
Where provision is limited or non-existent, charities often step in to provide much needed mental health support. However, one of the main issues is short term approaches to funding, which can lead to the withdrawal of existing well-functioning services. For the past four years the Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service has been funded by Comic Relief, William Grant Foundation, and Volant Trust. This funding has either ended or is coming to an end this year, so Aberlour is now trying to find additional sources of funding to keep the service operating.
Liz Nolan, Assistant Director at Aberlour Child Care Trust, said: “Sadly, some of our funding is coming to an end this year and we are facing a significant shortfall for 2020. At Aberlour Child Care Trust, we will be doing everything in our power over the next few months to secure additional funding streams to keep our doors open and continue to provide help and support for mothers in their communities.”
Watch on STV News
Caitlyn and Claire tell more of their story on STV News. Take a look.