They say it takes a village to raise a child and two local women want to provide that village for mums struggling with their mental health.
As a result of their own experience with mental health, best friends Dee McConnellogue and Abigail Elder-Mullan decided to set up Mum’s Mind NI to assist other women.
Dee is a newly qualified mental health nurse and Abigail is a nutritionist and mum to three kids under the age of five years.
They hope to break the stigma for mums who are struggling with their mental health and to help pregnant women struggling with the same issues.
Dee said the idea to set up the group came to her while she was on placement for her nursing degree.
“I just noticed there was a real gap in services for these women. Their baby was checked and weighed and they were simply asked ‘how’s the mood?’ I thought, what if someone really was struggling, would you want to say anything?”
Dee began to do her own research into post-natal mental health and set up a page on Facebook. Immediately women began to message the page looking for support and Dee did a number of mental health talks for pregnant women and mothers.
She invited Abigail to join in her plans and they now aim to expand the service.
Abigail suffered from post-natal depression after the birth of her first child and experienced depression during one of her pregnancies.
She said “if there was a service such as this when I was pregnant, I would have definitely used it. Having a child is so traumatic.”
“After the birth of my first child I couldn’t walk, I was in terrible pain and I got depressed very quickly. I wasn’t physically capable of getting up and seeing to my child and I felt like I wasn’t doing a very good job, but when the health visitor came around I didn’t say anything, because you don’t. There is a fear about it. We want people to come to us if they feel they can’t speak to anyone else.”
She said her mental health was really fragile and she was eventually diagnosed with post-natal depression.
“I had been depressed before in the past and just pushed through it myself. It is hard to identify when you are depressed and it is hard to look after yourself when you have a baby.”
The women are going to set up a peer-led support group and the first topic will be each woman’s birth story.
Abigail said everyone has a story to tell about this subject and women often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of birth trauma.
“I know I play over the birth of my three children a lot and once we share these stories it will be very therapeutic. To know that other women feel the same way normalises things.”
Mum’s Mind NI will offer counselling, physiotherapy, mental health education, nutrition advice and other holistic therapies.
They will hold a pilot day in the near future to assess what other services their members would like.
They also hope that the peer led support groups will allow women to find their own support network among other mothers.
“The saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. In many African villages, when a woman gives birth, the other women rally round for the first six weeks so she doesn’t have to do anything outside looking after and bonding with her child.
“Having children now is very different and it is almost like women are left to get on with it, yet there is so much expected of them, especially with social media adding to the pressure,” Dee claimed.
“We want to be that village,” Abigail added. “This is just that extra wee level of support that we think people need.”
“Women will be able to come to us in confidence and we can give them advice; sign post elsewhere or encourage them to seek the assistance of their G.P.”
Dee said the aim is that their group will be something exclusively for expectant women and mums.
“The dream is that in the future we get a premises in town, like a permanent drop in centre where women can come in with their pram, have a cuppa and off load, talk to us and tell us how they are feeling.
“We would also really love it if eventually we became a community organisation that the Trust can refer people to in the future.”
For more information and contact details for the group visit www.facebook.com/MumsMindNI or email firstname.lastname@example.org