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Healthy Minds – Happy Families

Healthy Minds

Jill Williams

My idea

One-to-one sessions with volunteers to provide emotional and practical family support for mums-to-be and new mums at risk of developing or affected by perinatal mental health issues (depression and anxiety) in Harlow.

My story so far...

Volunteering Matters is delighted to be a finalist for the Families Included prize!  We were selected for our idea ‘Healthy Minds – Happy Families’. 

Based on our flagship Volunteers Supporting Families (VSF) model, this project specifically targets mums-to-be and new mums at risk of developing, or currently affected by, perinatal mental health issues. We would like to offer women consistent one-to-one support from a trained volunteer over a six to nine month period. We know from our experience of supporting vulnerable mothers through our VSF programme that this model works.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in referrals of single mums (who make up approximately 65% of our referrals) suffering from mental health problems (mainly depression and anxiety). Our volunteers have been providing individually tailored one-to-one emotional and practical support to those mums and their families. As a result of this consistent, flexible, non-judgemental support, 66% of families reported improvements to their mental health and emotional wellbeing, and 58% told us their social networks had improved.

The main outcome of the project is to improve mothers’ mental health so that they can better support and care for their children.  In particular, we aim to improve mothers’ self-esteem and confidence, expand their social networks to help reduce isolation, and increase access to local support services. We also aim to empower mothers to become peer mentors, to expand their skill set and offer them an opportunity to support other mothers who are experiencing the type of challenges they faced. 

Volunteers will be visiting the family home on a weekly basis for a minimum of 2 hours and will provide one-to-one, emotional and practical support at home. Volunteers will signpost mothers and their families to relevant services and support available to them in the local area and will also accompany mothers to appointments and support groups if this is something mothers request.

As one of the Families Included finalists, we were invited to attend the ‘kick off’ event in Chelmsford on the 31st August. Billed as an induction day, to provide all finalists with information on what to expect over the coming months, the event did not disappoint.

Bringing all the finalists together to meet and talk about our projects, as well as providing an opportunity to network was a fantastic idea. The day also helped us to start planning for the next four months. 

Jill Williams, Business Development Manager said: “The workshop was really well thought out and informative , with plenty of opportunities for attendees to ask questions and to really feel part of a unique group.  I was impressed with the range of organisations represented, the  innovative ideas and of course, the passion behind them. I am really looking forward to the next group meeting and to hearing from everyone about their projects progress”.

Nine Challenge Prize finalists