Tiny Lives Trust charity highlights importance of mental health for new mums and dads

A mother and baby supported by the Tiny Lives Trust in Newcastle
A mother and baby supported by the Tiny Lives Trust in Newcastle -Credit:Tiny Lives Trust

The much-loved Tyneside charity Tiny Lives Trust has highlighted how important the mental health of mum (and dad) is while a newborn is in intensive care.

The charity supports babies and families on ward 35 at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), which is the neonatal intensive care unit. During maternal mental health week, the charity has highlighted the support it offers, and why that can make a massive difference to those going through an inherently stressful and scary time.

TLT's fundraising and engagement manager Rachel Hardwick told ChronicleLive how whether it was practical support for parents on the ward, or specialist psychological help, the charity had "support at a range of levels".

She said: "We support the neo-natal unit at the RVI and the families and babies who spend time there - and we also offer post-discharge support, too.

"One in seven babies born in the UK spend time in a neo-natal unit. So you are talking huge numbers and we know that this experience does really affect parents.

"We know around two in five parents experience PTSD when their baby needs intensive care. And we know from what parents tell us how traumatic it can be going through those early days when your baby is ill."

The charity provides six free sessions of counselling to parents discharged from the ward, along with the support offered by a clinical psychologist and the practical help offered by its family support workers.

She said that peer-suppport, and the charity's focus on helping parents realise they need to take time for themselves even though it can often feel counter-intuitive when they have a brand new baby in need of care, was a key part of its work.

Rachel added: "It's about taking that time for yourself, because while yes the baby is your absolute focus, you have to be your best self for the baby, too. We also fund peer-to-peer support and our peer supporters can offer that comfort and support to someone in a way no-one else can.

"We also ensure that families have access to a clinical psychologist if that's what they need too. We aim to have support that's available at all the different levels of need."

On the charity's website, project officer Jacqui Adams highlgihted how it often isn't until families leave hospital that parents reflect on what they've been through. She added: "This counselling service is there to support parents once they’ve had time to process and feel that they could use someone to talk to about their experience.

"This can often be triggered by life events way down the line, such as their child starting school, or a future pregnancy. Any Ward 35 parent can refer to this service, no matter how long they have been discharged."

Maternal mental health awareness week

Throughout maternal mental health awareness week, NHS organisations and charities have been spotlighting what they offer to best look after the health of mums. This comes as new NHS figures show more than 57,000 new and expectant mums received specialist support for mental health problems in 2023, up a third on a year previous.

Speaking this week, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust advanced clinical nurse practitioner Jan Rigby said: "Connection is important at this stage in a woman’s life. A lot of women who come to our groups say they feel lonely and can find talking about their mental health hard.

"There are a range of services across the region from family hubs and primary and secondary mental health services. Services can support women to attend a group. Connecting with others is often an important step. Meeting with others who may have similar experiences and feelings is often an integral part of recovery."

The CNTW trust has also shared a range of resources for those going through difficulties, whether that be simply difficulty adapting, or something like post-partum psychosis which can have devastating consequences.

To find out more about the support on offer from Tiny Lives Trust, click here. For more general information about maternal mental health, click here.