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We are so pleased to introduce our new counsellor, Nicola, to the team. We asked Nicola how she found MumsAid, how her personal experience plays a part and what mental health means to her.
What brings you to MumsAid?I am about to start the final year of an MSc in counselling and CBT and I have a passion for maternal mental health. Miriam has been a pioneer in the field of maternal mental health and as I plan to focus on supporting women in the perinatal period, it’s a real honour to be at MumsAid.You first worked with Miriam, our CEO 19 years ago when she was running one of the only PND support groups, what was that like?When I was diagnosed with postnatal depression 19 years ago it was a relief to finally know that there was a reason I was feeling so unwell but specialist support for maternal mental health didn’t really exist at that time. I feel very lucky to have lived in Greenwich as I was referred to Miriam’s group, which was one of the first support groups for PND anywhere in the country. Knowing that I wasn’t alone in my experience, having the opportunity to listen to and talk about experiences of motherhood honestly and being held in a non judgmental space was very therapeutic and a big part of my recovery. I guess my gratitude for the support I received from Miriam led me on my own path to supporting women through the perinatal period.What does mental health mean to you?Our mental health affects our relationships, how we feel about ourselves and influences the decisions we make and the way we live our lives. I believe we have a collective responsibility to challenge stigmas around mental health issues so that we can talk about how we are feeling without fear of prejudice and know where and how to ask for help when we need it.And why have you focused on the perinatal stage in your work?When I was teaching antenatal classes and baby massage I became very aware that there is an inequality of specialist support available for women who need it, through pregnancy and motherhood. It became the driving force behind my work and I wanted to expand on the support I could offer. In consultation with a group of mothers who had experienced mental health issues I set up and facilitated and support group for women who were experiencing difficulties at this time. Through this time, working on the ground with expectant and new mums I became extremely passionate about supporting women through this period in their lives.You’ve worked with hundreds of pregnant women. if there was some advice or learning from having seen so many at this stage of life what would it be?Try not to compare yourself to others, sometimes those who look like they have it all together are the ones who are struggling most.Ask for practical and emotional help if you feel you need it, society has evolved and many people no longer have the community and family support that there once would have been. I don’t believe we were supposed to go it alone.If you are struggling talk to someone you trust as soon as possible and know that you will feel better in time.We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect and new mums are often their own harshest critics. The fact is that nobody is a perfect parent, ‘you are doing your best and that is good enough’ !