Support for parents

Sadly Parents in Mind has had to close as, after 5 years of Big Lottery Funding, we were unable to find anyone locally to commission the service. This is a great loss to many other agencies who referred clients – Health Visitors, Local Support Teams, schools, HomeStart, Family solicitors etc- and most especially to the parents who are struggling with their own mental health issues and often with parenting as a result. Individuals, families and children benefitted from the project with over 600 people receiving a direct service over the 5 years., and more than 900 seeking some advice. For our reflections on the work please click below.

Support can still be accessed via our adult counselling  and young peoples counselling services.  Alternatively please contact the  Family Information Service Hub (FISH) who can be contacted by phone on 01782 232200 or by email at fish@stoke.gov.uk

Useful links

Parents in Mind

In 2011 when we were awarded funding of nearly £500,000 from the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund, we were building on some work we had done in the past on a very limited scale, and we had high hopes that we could offer a service which would make a real difference to parents with mental health issues. Five years of secure project funding imgresseemed a long time at the start.

The difference between this service and many others was that the professionally qualified counsellor could travel to see the client close to home, or in the home if that was the only way it could work. They could offer a service which was tailored to the client, and could include parenting support if needed, as the staff also had parenting training and experience.

After 5 years of hard work, but really valued and valuable work, we know that the service was meeting a need that was not being met elsewhere. Plenty of practical support is out there for parents, but the real tough emotional work of helping them understand themselves and their distress is missing.

Generally, the parents the team worked with were those who would not otherwise access a service, for a variety of reasons including debilitating anxiety, isolation, financial constraints, child care issues and simple distrust of agencies, often as a consequence of feeling judged in the past. By going out to clients at, or close to, home and developing rapport quickly by proving themselves to be trustworthy and reliable supporters, the staff were able to work with people who had refused other interventions. The counsellors used their skills to help the client untangle the roots of mental distress and to help people find new ways of understanding and coping.

Several families were re-united with children who had been placed into care as a result of a parent being unable to cope due to their own struggles with poor mental health. Once they could access support and, often for the first time, begin to understand their own histories and the impact of the past on them, then they could start to make changes in their lives to allow them to cope better and to parent their children better. Once the clients own issues were understood and beginning to be resolved, the focus could move to the parenting aspects. By supportive guidance, alongside constructive criticism and praise, the counsellors could offer what had often been absent in the life of the parent, and help the parent show that to their own children.

There were frustrations and obstacles – life is not easy for many people and there is no magic wand to be waved over people to sort everything out. We are all works in progress and some are closer to the finished article than others – life is tough and some of the parents we worked with have had it tougher than most – many having suffered abuse and neglect in their own childhoods, or having faced major trauma in early or recent life; rape, sudden death of partner, domestic violence, physical illness etc. But the evaluations of the service by those who used it and referred into it, were universally positive with some major life transformations having taken place for some families.

The team became very skilled in offering what was required by each client/ family, and went beyond the role of traditional counsellors whilst still operating within appropriate boundaries. They helped clients gain a sense of their own worth and autonomy and realise that they were worthy of support and not condemnation. Of course we had the safety of children at the forefront and we did have to report some safeguarding issues, but the emphasis was on helping parents understand the impact of their behaviour on their children, but also helping them to understand their own history and its impact on them – this encouraged much more ability to empathise with their own children.

It is sad that the project is no more after 5 years of hard work, and even sadder that there are families who now will go unsupported in the unique way we could offer. The legacy is in the people who were supported and did make changes and came to understand themselves as valuable and worthwhile human beings, who could be good parents. It will also be in the children who are happier and less stressed because their parents are in a better state of mental health. Looking back, the five years went very quickly and despite the numbers we reached, we also know there are many more people out there struggling on without this type of support.

We also continue to support the “Coffee Club” which is a peer support group for parents which meets once per month. This developed as part of our work, so that parents could find others who had been or were struggling with similar issues, and realise they were not alone. This will continue to meet once per month and is being supported from North Staffs Mind reserve funds.

A variety of comments from clients including one parent’s cartoon story of what worked for her.

 

I just wanted to say thank you. This service honestly kept our family together and helped us to be better parents. If we can ever help with telling our story to others or supporting you in any way please let us know.

I guess everyone is listening to each other more in our family and we are using some great key skills from our Counsellor who was just so warm and passionate and ” can do ” approach , was fantastic she delivered us those key skills as a family and we worked hard to climb back out of the dark hole I was in. We wanted you to know that we value this service and all you offered to us as a family. We have built up such a good rapport with the parents in mind team, and I have even managed to help others like myself by helping out at various events, stress busting etc .

I was really lucky because my counsellor was a mum herself, …….and she was really friendly, really open and I think because she was like that, she got a lot out me. She’s very calm she made me look at things in alternative ways which sometimes I hadn’t thought about. She was the perfect person.