MENTAL health organisation Mind Your Head has launched a new free service providing support to families with young children as part of its wellness programme.
The Wellbeing 1000 scheme was developed after canvassing the views of parents and organisations within the local community to determine gaps where more support was needed.
Mind Your Head wellness practitioner Stacey Leask said their research had identified that many parents with a newborn require support for months rather than weeks after the birth of their child.
That has resulted in the creation of a service focused on looking after parents with children aged up to two and a half during the first 1,000 days of parenthood.
The service will offer weekly one-to-one support for six months, with sessions tailored to help individuals improve their mental wellbeing, confidence, resilience and day-to-day functioning.
Leask said: “We found that, especially when you’ve got a new baby, that first 12 weeks goes really fast and by that time you’re still needing a bit of support.”
A weekly wellbeing group meet-up will take place at Islesburgh in Lerwick every Tuesday between 10am and noon where “families can come and get a cup of tea, speak about how they’re feeling, how they’re getting on”.
“They don’t need to bring anything, they don’t need to do anything – they just need to turn up,” Leask said.
In addition, later this year peer support volunteers will be recruited and trained in how best to use their own experiences to help others who have just become a parent.
Speaking after the service was launched at Islesburgh on Tuesday morning, Leask explained that many families felt there was a barrier “getting in the door” with some groups because they were “quite anxious about making that first step.
Midwife Lola Wild, who has been seconded as a wellness practitioner to Mind Your Head from NHS Shetland for one day a week, said the “three-pronged approach” would help folk to deal with the seismic lifestyle changes that first-time parents undergo.
“When you have a family, when you have a baby, becoming a parent or becoming a carer, that shape of your family just changes and it changes overnight,” Wild said.
“Therefore how you are as a person has to change overnight – your whole lifestyle changes, your sleep pattern changes, your hormones, your brain chemistry changes. That’s for mums, dads and carers alike, so there’s a lot of adjusting and adapting and a large amount of transitioning that needs to happen.”
She said the Covid-19 pandemic had brought into sharp focus just how important a community is when you are trying to bring up young children, and there had been “quite a lot of sadness” among families about the absence of that in the past 18 months.
“I think the pandemic has kind of broken down community a little bit, and that saying ‘it takes a village to bring up a child’ is so true,” Wild said. “I think families have really noticed a lack of support recently, not just from family members but from their friends and peers, but also getting out and being in groups as well.
“It’s the whole change of suddenly having somebody who is dependent on you, and that somebody who you love. Sometimes with that you get overwhelming feelings of anxiety, wanting to get things right, not always feeling like you are because it’s so new.
“When you’re in any community setting, surrounded by family, friends, or in a group setting, you get that validation just through discussing things with them: ‘This is how I’m feeling’… ‘Oh, I felt like that when mine was born…’”
She said the Wellness 1000 service had been “a long time coming” having been paused due to Covid-19 and she was “just delighted that we’re able to bring the community together” and focus on “building up [parents’] confidence so they’re where they should be and able to thrive”.
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