Community Corner - Our regular spotlight on a grassroots VCS organisation in the perinatal mental health sector
**What is the name of your organisation and when did you set up?
Mamas Matter CIC. I started running classes in 2018 and fairly quickly knew that working on a non-profit basis felt right and became registered as a community interest company in 2019.
**What prompted you to set up in the first place?
It’s a little long winded but, ultimately, it’s because I want to do whatever I can to help support any mum who is in a similar position to the “2010 version” of me, back when I was first diagnosed with PND when my first son was 9 months old. I had PND after having all three of our boys (now aged 11, 8 and 5), and being taught mindfulness and meditation practices by a therapist I was in treatment with really supported my recovery, along with medication and talking therapy of course.
I wished I had known the techniques I was learning back when my eldest was a baby. So, when I was looking to return to work in 2017, finding a course to train to deliver mindfulness-based classes for parents felt like the perfect way to share these tools I’d found so helpful with other mums who may also benefit. From feedback I got from mums attending the classes I ran, I realised that I was attracting many mums who’d experienced perinatal mental illnesses like myself and that they too loved how powerful mindfulness tools are in helping ‘take the edge off’ those everyday stresses we all experience in motherhood. I felt really passionate about creating an opportunity to make these classes accessible to any mum experiencing maternal mental health conditions and started to source funding to remove the financial barriers to accessing courses of classes.
**Where are you based?
Harrogate in North Yorkshire.
**What services do you offer and who do you support?
We prioritise supporting mums with maternal mental health conditions although any mum in the district is welcome to apply for a place on a course of classes. There are two courses available; Baby Mindful classes for mums to attend with their young babies, the classes are relaxing and soothing for both mum and babe. And another course called “Mama, You Matter” which focused on developing self-compassion and is aimed at mums who have children of any age. We collaborate with our friends at Hey Mama CIC to offer online versions of the classes too. And 2022 will also see the launch of the Mamas Matter Maternal Mental Forum that I’ll be facilitating. The aim of which is to connect local professionals who support Maternal Mental Health from all sectors (ie private, public and third sector) to encourage communication between the sectors and bring some cohesion to local signposting.
**What do you find most rewarding about running your service?
I just LOVE it when anyone tells me about how they’ve used a practice we learnt in class in a real-life tricky situation. Hearing how someone’s used some simple (but oh-so-effective) breathwork at 3am when their babe’s woken them up for the 11th time that night to reduce both babe and mum’s stress levels and soothed them both enough to sleep, or when someone who has been empowered to be compassionate enough to themselves to take some long-awaited time out for them, that’ll never get old!
**How might it be helpful to you and your organisation to come together as a wider VCS perinatal mental health community & work more closely?
Connecting with other VCS organisations with shared aims is so helpful. In particular as a new and small organisation, being able to learn from leaders of more established organisations is invaluable. Being a VCS organisation, can take quite some tenacity and honestly, despite being really rewarding, it can also be pretty tough at times. But connecting with leaders of VCS organisations that have become large, robust and have successfully supported incredible numbers of families, is really inspiring, especially when they can share that they too started from modest beginnings. It means that we feel supported and ‘held’ while we work to ensure that our own organisations can grow, have longevity and help many more families thrive.
**If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when starting up, what would it be?
It would definitely be to be bolder,
**If money and resources were no issue and you could wave a magic wand and change any part of your service - what would you change and why?
I dream of being able to give every new family a free course of mindfulness-based classes. Learning how mindfulness, breathwork and meditation can soothe us and our babes can be a skill that’s useful with the whole family, right from the newborn stage to the teenage years and beyond. It’d be incredibly powerful if it was just a standard offering for all families! Dreaming big there, I know.
**If you could give all parents a super-power what would that be and why?
To rid parents of self-doubt. Parenthood is laced with so much self-doubt, and that makes it really difficult to tune into and listen to our instincts. This self-doubt is often a result of external influences, and it can really impact parents’ confidence and self-esteem. I think it could really boost parents’ mental well-being if we had a super-power making us immune to self-doubt.
**Anything you’d like to tell us about your service or organisation? Any recent wins or things to celebrate?
Even though it was a little while ago I’m still incredibly delighted at securing a year's worth of national lottery funding back in early autumn, that was our biggest win so far as far where funding is concerned. And I’m looking forward to seeing what 2022 brings for Mamas Matter, we’ve got some exciting collaborations being planned behind the scenes, partnering with other local non-profits and public services too and we’re moving to a bigger new venue for our Baby Mindful classes which has increased class capacity so I can’t wait to meet more mums and babes in the new year.