In 2016, NCT secured funding from the Department of Health to pilot an innovative mental health service. Parents in Mind, developed in collaboration with the Institute of Health Visiting, provides safe and effective peer support, delivered by volunteers, for women with mild to moderate perinatal mental health difficulties. It is currently being piloted across three sites: Coventry & Warwickshire, Halton and Newham.
Volunteers with lived experience of perinatal mental health issues participate in a OCN accredited 30 hour transformative training programme, focusing on practical skills such as active listening and group hosting. They also learn about the range of perinatal mental health difficulties, and the barriers to emotional wellbeing new parents often face. Trained volunteers are then able to support women in groups and one-to-one settings. The peer supporters receive ongoing supervision from programme staff, including group reflective sessions. They also receive clinical support, to ensure they remain well.
In each site, a dedicated Service Delivery Manager works in partnership with local stakeholders, ensuring the service becomes embedded, and promoting engagement with community, statutory and specialist services, including PNMH teams. Parents in Mind aims to normalise conversations about perinatal mental health within communities – raising awareness, providing accurate information, and reducing stigma.
The programme is being evaluated independently by a research team at City University, in partnership with NCT’s Knowledge Team. Interim evaluation findings (March 2018) show a statistically significant reduction in anxiety and depression scores for women receiving Parents in Mind peer support, using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), a validated mental health measure. Women who used the service also reported that Parents in Mind helped them: feel less lonely/isolated (80%); know where to get help (80%); feel like they have someone to talk to who understands them (74%); access services (71%).
‘[The volunteer] just really made me feel normal. She listens like it’s okay not to be okay, and that’s really how I felt every time I left.’
‘I felt okay because I looked at the other mums and I thought, “Yes, they know what it’s like to be in my head”.’
The pilot will continue to run until September 2018, and NCT hopes to deliver Parents in Mind in other parts of the country in the future.
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