Home-Start is experiencing unprecedented numbers of parents turning to the charity for support with perinatal (from pregnancy to one year) mental health issues. Nearly half of all parents supported by the organisation are experiencing mental health challenges including post-natal depression, isolation, feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and exhaustion.

Here's how six young, Home-Start supported, mums turned their maternal mental health challenges into a powerful video:

Research shows that young parents, under the age of 25, are more likely to have perinatal mental health challenges and are the least likely to seek support. To address this issue, and help reach younger parents, many Home-Starts run groups specifically designed to support under 25s.

For six young mums, who attend the under 25s perinatal group at Home-Start Dundee, a recent opportunity to open up about their mental health experiences and illustrate their feelings, turned into an empowering experience when they invited to co-produce an animated video that captured their perspective.

This exciting opportunity came about when the young mums took part in a half day workshop about the kinds of services they needed and who they believed should deliver them. The workshop was led by the Mother, Infant and Child Research Group at the University of Dundee - a group of midwives, nurses, social scientists and health researchers with the aim of reducing health inequalities and  improving outcomes for mothers and infants through research.

During the workshop, the women expressed feelings of fear of being judged, and feeling stigma and isolation in admitting perinatal mental health needs. They said that their ideal form of support was face-to-face, using a peer support programmes, similar to what they have been offered through Home-Start. They particularly liked that Home-Start volunteers have their own parenting experiences to share.

Raw and real feelings

One mum explained about the type of person she wanted to receive support from “I feel like it’s got to be someone with lived experience because it’s not learned out a book, it’s raw and it’s real and you can tell the difference”.

Artist Andrew Low from Dundee Contemporary Arts brought iPads to the workshop and encouraged the mums to draw images that represented their emotions. The mums also recorded short voice pieces that summed up their personal experiences.

One mum drew two tall trees, standing above the horizon, with long branches stretching towards each other and touching like fingertips. She explained her inspiration was based on support she’d received from Home-Start, saying “You have to plant the seeds, put water on it and allow it to grow. With time, sunlight, water and care, the trees will grow branches and the different tree branches start touching each other.

"This represents the support we need to grow. Support that comes from people like us, people with experience. When this happens, we can relax”.
By supporting dads you're supporting mums

Another mum drew a 500 pound weight, similar to the ones you see in cartoons. The weight was animated in the video to show it lifting when she found support from Home-Start. She said “I’ve been left to look after my partner because there’s nowhere for dads to access support for their mental health needs. All the services I was being offered were doing nothing because there was nothing for him. I was carrying all this weight because there was nowhere for him to go. It’s no use if I’m okay and he’s not . We’re a team".

“Our mental health has a knock on effect on one another. Attending peer support face-to-face sessions was the only thing that helped. Because my partner was so isolated, coming to a third sector organisation like Home-Start allowed him to talk. Coming to Home-Start has lifted the weight off me.”

Turning feelings in to a film

Alison Kettles, Manager of Home-Start Dundee said, "It was emotional to record the voiceovers, as it required the mums to talk about the most vulnerable aspects of themselves, but that the women found the experience to be very empowering. They also loved being involved in creating the look and feel of the video and choosing the title - What works for us".

Watch the finished film 

Alison Kettles is a passionate advocate for young mums. Over her twenty-one years with Home-Start Dundee she has established strong links with Dundee and Angus College, encouraged them to offer a creche and helped the mums she supports to attend courses and gain qualifications that enable them to thrive in their lives and look after their little ones. Some have become social workers, another is a professional photographer and one young mum who was pregnant at fourteen and told she would amount to nothing, was accepted into St. Andrews University.

With an increasing focus on Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, Home-Start has created bespoke training for all staff teams and volunteers on the issues. Alex Corgier, Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Lead at Home-Start UK explained “Every family deserves understanding, empathy, and the necessary support to navigate these challenges effectively.”

As one of the mums featured in the video says “When you have a baby, everyone thinks you should be happy but I was in a bad place, I didn’t know how to look after myself, never mind the baby. I realised… there’s no shame in reaching out for support. Support, friendship and medication helped my heart get back together.”

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