“Just like the lotus, we too have the ability to rise from the mud, bloom out of the darkness and radiate into the world”
Anyone who has come through their own personal battle with a Maternal Mental Health illness will understand the powerful underlying message to this quote. I know when hearing it for the first time whilst interviewing Sarah that it struck a chord with me. It struck a chord with Sarah and was a quote she revisited numerous times during some of her darkest of days battling with her maternal mental health therefore, it only felt right that once she had recovered and wanted to use her experiences to help other mums that she named her organisation, Lotus Petal Family Support.
And what a light Sarah and her organisation have radiated into the worlds of mums struggling with their maternal mental health! Here we Shine the Spotlight on the support she offers, hear about Sarah’s personal battle and learn the exciting plans she has for the future of her organisation.
Over to you Sarah…..
First off please can you tell us a bit about your self
I’m Sarah, I’m married to John and have three children, two girls and a boy.
Do you have personal experience of a maternal mental health illness and if so what services did you access when you were first diagnosed?
Yes, I have experienced PND and Anxiety with all three of my children. Things were most severe after my first child as I didn’t ask for help. When I was pregnant with my second I eventually spoke to my midwife who referred me to our local Perinatal Emotional Wellbeing Team. I had therapy with them for 6 weeks and after my child was born I also started medication.
What is the name of your organisation and what are the services it offers?
Lotus Petal Family Support, we are a peer support network for families in Essex who have been affected by perinatal mental illness. We offer a safe space for mums to come and meet and talk with others who are feeling similar. We want to help combat the isolation so many experience when struggling with a maternal mental illness. We are based within the children centre in our local community so can also signpost families to the professional support available.
How long has the organisation been running for?
We started online in March 2015 and held our first group session in October 2015
What is the story behind its set up and the reasons the organisation was set up in the first place?
When I struggled with my illness, I was incredibly lonely. Even though I was struggling with anxiety and leaving home was becoming very difficult for me, I still looked for local groups to attend. I wanted a group where others were also struggling, but there wasn’t anything. I eventually found PND and Me, and joined the online community there. I had made a promise to myself that if I ever recovered, I would start a blog to share my story and start a group so no other mum local to me would have to feel as lonely as I did.
Can you tell us a bit more about the mums and the families that your organisation helps
I’m incredibly proud of the ladies in our group. They are honest, kind, understanding and non judgemental – exactly what you need when you feel alone in the midst of mental illness. They are all bonded by something no one wanted to experience, the respect each individual has towards each other is always wonderful to see. The children centre I work with always feedback to me that people say our group has made them feel welcomed.
Why do you feel it is so important for organisations and services like yourselves to exist?
I think talking with others, especially those who understand can be incredibly helpful and therapeutic. It’s a powerful thing knowing you’re not alone and that others have been through similar and made it through the other side. Sometimes you can see the sense of relief when a Mum comes to our group and realises it’s not just her. That actually the feelings she’s experiencing aren’t individual to her and that there’s others who feel the same. Sometimes we are first people that mum has told she is struggling, so we can not only give her a shoulder to cry on, but also point her into the right direction for professional help and walk beside her through her recovery.
What is your view at the moment on the services provided for mums across the UK and what changes would you like to see?
Currently where we are in Essex, we have seen some really positive changes. We had a small perinatal mental health team when I was unwell who some mums could access. They recently won a bid to expand and improve the service further which is really exciting. We have worked with them and shared our experiences, to help shape the service and look forward to the new service launching. We have an IAPT service which also has a specialist course for new mums, but as with most of the UK waiting lists are long, and it doesn’t cover all of the county. I would like to see more education for GPs, these are often the first port of call for many mums, including myself, and often doctors are unsure what to do or say. Mums can be sent home with a prescription and not much more.
What would be on your wish list of “I wish I’d of known before I became a mum” with regards to your maternal mental health?
I wish I’d have known that asking for help didn’t mean I was a failure
I wish I’d have known the sooner I asked for help, the sooner I could start to feel better
I wish I’d have known the symptoms, so I could have realised what I was feeling was PND and not that I was a rubbish mum
What is a message that you would like to give any mum currently going through their own battle with their maternal mental health?
To anyone struggling, please reach out and speak to someone. You’re not alone and thing do get better. You’re not a failure for asking for help, you are important and you are loved.
What are your plans for the future of your organisation and what do you feel the future looks like for maternal mental health awareness?
Myself and my colleague Laura hope to launch more groups through out Essex in the near future. We have lots of plans on how we can expand our services and reach more families in Essex so will continue working on these. We will also keep working with local professionals & organisations to help share patient experiences of the services in Essex and hopefully help to improve them. We want to continue to raise awareness for perinatal mental illness and fight the stigma so many families are faced with.
We have also been working with another local organisation to create a two day training course to help educate healthcare professionals and those working with families struggling with baby loss and perinatal mental health. We run our first sessions in November.
How can mums in need of your support access the services of your organisation?
Mums can reach us via our social media pages; The Blog, Facebook , Instagram and Twitter. Mums can message us with any questions and we keep details of our groups up to date on there. Our support groups are a drop in session held every Monday at Little Lions Children Centre, Canvey Island, Essex and we also run an online group for mums in the area. Mums are welcome to come for as long as they wish, whether it be 10 minutes or the entire time. They can also contact the children centre we run from on 01268 683671 or more details.
If like me and Sarah you believe “Every Mum Deserves the Right to Enjoy Motherhood” then please come and join The Every Mum Movement by liking The Facebook page, following on Facebook, Instagram and signing up to the movement on the website.
If you would like to join the closed Facebook group called The Every Mum Club please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.