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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Peer Support: Together in a changing world

This opinion piece is about 1 year old
 

This week is Maternal Mental Health week

Together in a changing world is the strapline of Maternal Mental Health week. This national campaign focuses on the mental health experience of mums and families during pregnancy and beyond.

Adapting and adjusting to the changing world around us is something we have become more familiar with over the past few years. There’s no doubt about it (and I speak from my own journey as a mum), the perinatal experience is also a time of change and new challenges for parents or caregivers in some way or another.

This week of awareness is important, and it feels like a great opportunity to shine a light on the significant role that peer support plays in supporting maternal mental health. It’s not based on trying to fix people or one person being the ‘expert’. Peer support is underpinned by the values hope, experience, authenticity, responsibility, meaning and empowerment.

Perinatal peer support activity across Scotland is rich and is currently largely driven by the third sector. It thrives in community settings. There are many great examples of people inspired to create change through their own perinatal mental health experiences. They are starting up activities, groups and services to support others who might be facing something similar. For example, PND & Me run a thriving Twitter space where people connect through #PNDHour. LATNEM are supporting mums and birthing people across the North-East and Juno continue to support mums in Edinburgh. Let’s not forget the fantastic peer support work of father’s groups. Places like Dad’s Rock and Fathers Beacon, making sure that help is available for dads too.

Scottish Recovery Network is delighted to work with several projects to launch Let’s do Peer Support: Bump, Birth & Beyond. This new practical toolkit has been co-designed to help people who are planning and delivering informal group activities. It has been developed through learning and real-life experiences of perinatal peer support.

For me this has been quite cathartic as I recently returned from maternity leave after having my second baby. The opportunity to work on this resource felt timely as I navigate this changing time. Peer support has played an important role in my experience as a mum. Through formal support provided by a breastfeeding peer support worker to more informal support through a gathering of mums meeting in the local community centre. In all these relationships a sense of ‘I get it’ from others has mattered.

We celebrated the launch of this new toolkit by bringing those involved together at an event in Perth. This was a wonderful opportunity to connect and explore the future of perinatal peer support and what we can do together.

A changing world brings opportunities to grow the perinatal peer support landscape in Scotland. For it to flourish we need to value all the innovation of the third sector while bringing people together across sectors to share learning and new ideas.

If peer support is invested in properly, it can become a mainstream part of our mental health system, providing inclusive and accessible routes to support for all parents and caregivers. That’s a change I’d like to see.

Download the free Let’s Develop Peer Support: Bump, Birth and Beyond at https://bit.ly/BumpBirthBeyondGuide and join the conversation on Twitter using #BumpBirthBeyond

Let’s do Peer Support: Bump, Birth & Beyond is commissioned by the Scottish Government as part of the Perinatal Mental Health – Peer Support Action Plan 2020-2023.

Warm thanks to PND&ME, PANDAS, Moray Wellbeing Hub, Home-Start Caithness, Fathers Beacon & PMH Support, Fathers Network, Parent Network Scotland, Mind Your Head Shetland, Juno, Children 1st Moray, Dad Matters – Home-Start Glasgow North, Glasgow MBU, Held in Our Hearts, Healthy Valleys, Aberlour, LATNEM, Bump Start – Stepping Stones Edinburgh, Inspiring Scotland, NHSGGC Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Network, Dads Rock and everyone who has been part of conversations and wider engagement.

Holly Hendry is Projects Coordinator for Scottish Recovery Network