" We enable parents to have honest conversations about their emotional wellbeing and meet others in a similar situation."
In preparation for World Mental Health Day on Thursday 10th October, two local mums and founders of perinatal mental health charity, Smile Group, speak up about the importance of peer support.
Natalie Nuttall and Ruth Williams set up Smile Group on Mother’s Day 2011 after both experiencing postnatal depression and recognising a gap in community support. In the last year alone the charity has supported nearly 200 women and their families across Cheshire East via its weekly peer support groups at children’s centres in Macclesfield, Congleton and Sandbach.
Having secured support from Comic Relief in 2017 as part of a three-year funding programme, Smile Group also provides 1-1 talk therapy to bridge NHS waiting lists as well as a Home Visits Programme to reach parents whose experience of anxiety and low mood means it can be difficult to attend a group.
Smile Group features in the Royal College of GPs’ Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit as best practice in peer support. As a member of the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership in the UK, Smile is passionate about raising awareness and enabling parents to seek prompt, appropriate support in their local communities.
Speaking about World Mental Health Day, Natalie said: “By providing a safe and welcoming space, we enable parents to have honest conversations about their emotional wellbeing and meet others in a similar situation. Peer support is a hugely valuable aspect of service provision, especially in this ‘brave new world’ of shrinking budgets, which requires us to be innovative and collaborative.”
Ruth added: “We care deeply about grass roots support in our local communities and the growing number of families accessing our services is testament to the need out there. We work closely with healthcare professional within our clinical landscape, so that parents seeking help can be signposted and can benefit from our support.”
Smile Group invites mums, dads and little ones up to the age of three to its drop-in groups, without any need for a formal referral. It also runs monthly family sessions for partners and siblings to attend at Ruby’s Fund in Congleton, which is a great way to bring families together who are going through a difficult time.
The charity has ambitions for responsible growth and is in the process of scoping out the potential for offering a dedicated service to support dads’ perinatal mental health in Cheshire East.