Two new staff members will help transform the support we provide to new parents experiencing mental health issues. 

As many as one in seven women and one in ten men develop a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after the birth of their baby. The pain this causes can be significant and long lasting. It can also affect the baby’s later emotional and behavioural development.

We know the first 1,000 days of being a parent are now accepted to be the most significant in a child’s development. It can also present some of the most challenging moments for parents, particularly for those living with poor mental health.

Alex Corgier recently joined Home-Start as its Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Lead for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Alex explains how our support can stop families reaching crisis point. 

Alex says: “Perinatal and infant mental health have always been a big passion of mine.

While I was the scheme manager at Home-Start Stroud and Gloucester, we provided specialist training for our volunteers on perinatal and infant mental health. We developed the ‘Mothers In Mind’ project, a peer-to-peer support group for mums with poor mental health and recently launched a 'Dad Matters' project.

I’ve seen the difference these initiatives have made to parents, and I’m looking forward to exploring how we can do more of this across the network to better support parents.

There’s a real fear in admitting you’re struggling with your mental health when you have a new baby. There’s a stigma around asking for help, alongside this myth of a perfect parent. Asking for help is difficult, and it takes a lot of courage. When families first get in touch with us we always say to them that they’ve taken the most difficult step, they’ve allowed us into their home.

Home-Start volunteers have trusting relationships with families. By offering additional mental health training to volunteers, we can help them understand what poor mental health can look like and how they, as volunteers, can best support parents.

Perinatal mental health and infant mental health are connected, but they’re also very different. Infant mental health sounds scary, but it’s fundamentally about how babies develop emotionally and socially. It’s about encouraging communication, understanding why they cry and responding to it. It’s about providing a baby with a secure environment.

Our trusted volunteers are the perfect people to help new parents with this. And, we know that parents being responsive to their baby will achieve the best long-term outcomes for the child".

It takes a village

Sarah Williams joined Home-Start UK in July as the charity’s National Perinatal Infant Mental Health Lead in Scotland. Sarah talks about her work and explains why Home-Start is so effective at supporting families in this area.

During my time working as midwife on labour wards it became increasingly apparent to me that a lot of families who head home with a new baby have very few supports around them.

We say that it takes a village to raise a child but sadly many families in Scotland have no village. I’ve spent time in Kenya and South Sudan, setting up maternity services, and in these contexts have experienced how mobilised and engaged communities can be in supporting new parents. In Scotland our communities can feel more fractured and families can experience disconnection and isolation. We know this has sadly become much worse during the pandemic.

The services which local Home-Starts offer are really helping to reduce isolation and bring families into connection and supportive spaces: alongside our core service of volunteers supporting families 1:1, there are amazing projects in local Home-Starts across Scotland, from antenatal dads groups, breastfeeding peer supports and young mums nurture groups.

Looking across the network at services local Home-Starts provide you can see how they’ve been developed and adapted to local needs. This is what makes Home-Start so effective – it’s rooted in the local communities it serves. I’m keen we can scaffold this work and evaluate services in order to further establish a rich evidence base which we can share as we work with others to inform and shape policy in this area.

Home-Start has long been championing infant mental health in a non-clinical sense via encouraging positive parent-infant interactions and are very skilled in creating environments for these interactions to take place, as well as sharing information regarding bonding, attachment, attunement and baby brain development with families.

We need to continue to share both our insight and learning so we can influence funding, and policy and to extend our reach so we can support many more families, whether directly or indirectly. We can help families to build their village.”

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