It’s been a tough year, trying to build a network of peer supporters – and encourage them to work together and share their skills – during a global pandemic where we were literally told we couldn’t meet each other! Never-the-less, a little over a year on and the Leeds Perinatal Mental Health Peer Supporter Alliance has achieved things that I’m really proud of. Soon it will be let loose on its own as a self-sustained Alliance, organizing and governing itself. I will be sad not to be involved in the work to come, however, in March this year Touchstone was given additional funding by the ICS to recreate this project in the rest of West Yorkshire! So, starting from 1st July there will be a busy year getting to know all the brilliant perinatal peer support that is out there in Huddersfield, Halifax, Keighley, Bradford, Castleford, Wakefield and everywhere in between! We will be building on what we’ve learnt in Leeds to ensure we can create an Alliance that works for all its members. I’m very excited about this new challenge. It will be hard work – but that never stopped us before!
I cannot, however, move on to this new project without reflecting on the diversity, skill and passion that all our Leeds members have brought with them in the past year. While my team has been working hard behind the scenes co-producing resources, designing an infrastructure and finding new members, it has been the contributions of the members themselves that seem to have made the most difference. Many of our members are NHS employees, volunteers with full time jobs or members of third sector organisations suddenly redeployed to COVID crisis services. However, despite the inevitable zoom fatigue and jam-packed schedules, they have still managed to get involved where they could.
Leeds Dads talked to us about how they use walking groups as peer support and introduced us to the Walk Leader training available through the council. The Refugee Council and Leeds City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream, invited women seeking asylum either while pregnant or with a small baby, to speak to us about their experiences and the barriers they face. Other members took part in a social media campaign over the approach to Christmas, to advertise the peer support available for new parents. Organisations and individuals have started to work together on new projects and pool their expertise. Shortly, the group members at YUMS will help us understand what peer support groups could do better in order to become more accessible to younger parents. A few weeks later and LYPFT, who provide the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health service, are going to explain what their service does and how best to help pregnant women, new parents and their families to access support for their mental health. If this is what can happen in just one year, I can’t wait for the future!
If you are an individual or part of a community or statutory organisation, in any area of West Yorkshire working with families, and you offer peer support, are interested in expanding your work to include peer support, or you feel you could connect us to individuals or organisations who could help us, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or 07741077332.
If you are Leeds based perinatal mental health peer supporter or organisation and you wish to join the Alliance, please visit https://leeds-perinatal-mental-health-peer-supporter-alliance.mailchimpsites.com/