Charity hailed for helping new mums suffering from depression and anxiety
Aberlour calls for its befriending programme, which has been shown to help ease anxiety and depression in new mums, to be rolled out nationwide
A pioneering friendship scheme offering crucial support to new mothers suffering anxiety and depression has been hailed by experts.
The Perinatal Befriending Support Service launched by children's charity Aberlour is designed to deliver practical help and emotional support to vulnerable mothers struggling to cope.
An independent review by researchers at Stirling University has found the pilot scheme is helping new mothers suffering a range of mild to moderate mental health issues during pregnancy and after giving birth.
The university team found the relationship with the charity's volunteers has increased the mothers’ wellbeing, eased anxiety and depression, and boosted confidence in their parenting skills and attachment to their children.
It is estimated up to 30% of mothers suffer mental health issues, from debilitating anxiety and stress to clinical depression and psychosis, before their child is four.
More than 80 vulnerable mothers, living in and around Falkirk, have been referred to the Aberlour team by health care professionals since the pilot scheme launched in 2015.
Meanwhile, more than 40 volunteer friends have been trained by the charity and spend three hours each week helping new mothers at risk.
After launching the university report at a parliamentary reception the charity called on the service to be extended.
Aberlour chief executive SallyAnn Kelly said sometimes a mum at risk of mental illness someone to care to help them regain their good health.
She said: “Sometimes, they need a friend who can listen without judging, who can help without interfering and be there when they're needed.
“Our volunteers are those kind of friends. That is why, we hope to win the funding to extend our pilot scheme from Forth Valley to other regions in Scotland.”
Aberlour support co-ordinator Angie Rennie, who matches volunteers to mothers in need, believes the service is simple but the effects can be profound.
She said: “For many, different reasons, these mothers feel that they are isolated and cannot talk to their own family and friends.
“They feel alone and they need a friend. That's where our volunteers come in. They do what friends do. They don't judge but listen, encourage and support.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western, and formerly head of policy at Aberlour, believes the scheme is a proven success and deserves to be rolled out.
“We are increasingly aware of how their earliest years can shape a child's life and this simple but effective friendship scheme is clearly making a difference,” he said.
“It is helping give vulnerable new mothers and their babies a better start.
“It is a scheme that does not cost a fortune, is expertly-led and professionally-managed and it works. We need more like it.”
Helen Cheyne, professor of midwifery at Stirling University, added: “Mental health issues directly before and after birth, can have long-term impacts for new mothers and their children.
“Previously, gaps had been identified in the provision of perinatal mental health services and support during this crucial period.
“Third sector organisations have a vital role in developing innovative services that often fill these gaps as well as breaking down stigma and social isolation.
“Our assessment of Aberlour’s scheme confirms the difference a buddying-style service can make to women’s wellbeing.”