West Sussex Mind awarded £342,574 from National Lottery for Families in Mind service

West Sussex Mind has been awarded £342,574 from the National Lottery to develop its vital Families in Mind service for parents and carers with pre-school children in Worthing, Littlehampton, Adur and Bognor.

The project aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of parents and carers who are expecting a child, once their child is born and until their child or children reach school age.

The funding covers three years so the charity can continue the service, which supported 149 parents with 617 one-to-one sessions and 186 group activities in 2020-21.

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Kim Anthony, children, young people and families service manager at West Sussex Mind, said: “We are delighted that the National Lottery funding will enable us to continue this vital service. With backing for the project for another three years, we will be able to expand our network of volunteers to provide peer support, attract more dads to the service and work more closely with other organisations, such as housing associations.”

Emma is coping so much better as a mum since she received support from West Sussex Mind's Families in Mind service

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One mum who sought support with Families in Mind when her anxiety became debilitating after having her first child has spoken of the support she received at a time when she felt very isolated.

Emma's daughter was born prematurely at 35 weeks and the first three weeks were 'extremely tough and emotional', with the baby being in the neonatal unit and Emma having difficulties with her feeding.

Emma faced intense worry that her daughter would be okay. As she grew, she experienced loneliness as a new mum with her first baby but getting support with her mental health helped build her confidence to connect with others again.

Families in Mind aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of parents and carers who are expecting a child, once their child is born and until their child or children reach school age

She explained: "Life became extremely lonely when my first child was born and my anxiety was really bad. I was anxious all the time, as I didn’t know whether what I was doing with my baby was right or wrong.

"I was panicking over small things and felt extremely alone, as none of my friends had had babies, so no one really understood what I was going through.

"I had the support of my husband but when he went to work, my anxiety would really kick in and I would not know what to do. I couldn’t deal with my little girl screaming. My mind would go blank and I would have to put my daughter down and I felt bad doing this.

"I had no one to turn to or ask without feeling judged. I felt like a bad mum because of all the emotions I was feeling. I felt bad that I couldn’t deal with my daughter and her crying.

"I think that the trauma me disconnect and I didn’t bond with my daughter. I really felt low and emotional, and I just had no energy to look after myself, let alone this tiny human being I had just given birth to."The health visitor suggested Emma try West Sussex Mind but at first she was reluctant.

Emma explained: "At first I said no, because I felt like asking for help meant that I was failing as a mum.

But I finally went along to one of the groups with my mum the first time and was introduced to other mums and dads who have experienced the same anxiety and loneliness that I felt. It helped me to understand that I know my own baby best and I know what is best for my child, whether it be right or wrong.

"Getting help with Families in Mind has helped me to meet other people in comfortable, safe surroundings, where I can talk to other parents and feel more at ease and not judged.

"Life has changed for the better. I find it a lot easier now to approach people with babies and children and start chatting. I have made some great friends at the Families in Mind baby group, and so has my daughter, and now we meet up outside of the group.

"I am able to care for my baby much better now and with greater confidence. And I know that if I have any queries or need any help, I can contact the mental health support workers at West Sussex Mind and they will help in any way they can. It's lovely to know you have that back-up and can still reach out if you are having bad days.

"I definitely have more good days since I reached out for support and I don’t feel so lonely any more.

"Getting support has helped boost my confidence since having a baby because I really had hit rock bottom mentally and physically. Without Families in Mind, I honestly do not know where I would be right now as a new mum."

The service helps parents of children aged up to five with issues such as postnatal depression, postpartum anxiety and other mental health problems, and supports those who may be struggling to cope with family life. It helps parents and carers understand and manage their own mental health and well-being better, feel less isolated and develop support networks.

Unlike most mental health services that are aimed only at parents, Families in Mind includes provision for children, which means parents can bring their children to most sessions, develop bonds for themselves and their children, and do not need to pre-arrange childcare, which can be a barrier to accessing support.For more information about the service, visit www.westsussexmind.org

West Sussex Mind is a local, independent mental health charity, affiliated to but separate from national Mind. Its head office is in Worthing and it supports people in Shoreham, Lancing, Worthing, Steyning and Chanctonbury, Littlehampton, Chichester and Bognor, Midhurst and surrounding areas.