Case Study - The Parent Rooms
Recently we caught up with Michelle Bradley, Founder and Chief Executive of The Parent Rooms, and a lived experience mum of three. She is an active campaigner for better perinatal mental health services and is passionate about supporting parents to manage their mental health and getting them the support they need to recover and flourish.
The Parent Rooms are primarily a mental health support charity that works with parents in Northern Ireland who are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD and loneliness and isolation. We aim to provide a circle of support around parents to help them take control of their wellbeing and take positives steps towards emotional health. We do this through peer support, counselling, and wellbeing programs. We also train volunteers in OCN Level 3 Peer Support Worker training.
Our main beneficiaries are parents with secondary beneficiaries being children and the wider family unit. In the past year we have supported over 500 parents and this is growing. We are currently receiving more than thirty referrals to our services every month.
Our services are delivered through the work of one part-time employed Parent Support Coordinator while volunteers fill all other roles, myself included. We have 18 active volunteer peer support workers. We also work in partnership with Relate NI to provide counselling services on our behalf.
Although promoting health and wellbeing is the main public benefit provided by The Parent Rooms, we also promote community, provide educational services as well as campaigning and advocacy to find policy and practical solutions better mental health services for parents in NI.
We want to make sure no parent is left behind, struggling with mental health issues in isolation. In January 2021, for the first time ever, the Health Minister for Northern Ireland, announced that specialist perinatal mental health services would be rolled out in every health trust in the country. Where over 80% of parents had no access to specialist services, now parents struggling with severe mental health issues will have access to this vital supported. However, many parents won’t meet the criteria for specialist services, and we still have no in-patient mother and baby unit so our work continues.
At The Parent Rooms, we provide Peer Support, Counselling, Wellbeing Programs (art therapy, personal development, infant massage, sensory skills, journaling, meditation). These services are delivered through a bended approach, via Zoom, telephone and in-person. AT present the services are primarily delivered in Belfast however we are currently growing and expanding into Newcastle, Portadown, Maghera.
We can see the positive impact our work is having for those in need. For example, one of our mums joined us for peer support in the Summer of 2020. She had been struggling with very low mood, isolation, stress (working with children at home during lockdown) and family difficulties. This mum initially joined us for peer support where she met other mums in similar situations who were able to provide understanding, empathy and friendship. She also enrolled in an art therapy course and we provided 12 sessions of counselling. In March 2021 she reported that her mood had drastically improved and that she found taking part in our support services to be ‘life-changing and life-saving”. She is now an active volunteer with our organisation and is using her own lived experience to help others.
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