Family Assist Solent comes to parents’ aid this Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week and Mental Health Awareness Week
Solent NHS Trust is supporting Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (2-8 May) and Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) through the new online portal, Family Assist Solent.
Family Assist Solent offers a wealth of information, including mental health guidance to expectant and new mothers, parents, and families when needed most.
With all content written or approved by local health professionals and available at any time from a phone, tablet or PC, Family Assist Solent enables parents, carers, and families to access safe, reliable information and support during pregnancy, birth and beyond.
Expectant or new parents are invited to register via their health visiting service, and anyone with a child under two can sign up by visiting the portal. Information is available up to age 3, with more guidance for older children being developed. Available to families living in Portsmouth and Southampton cities and the Isle of Wight, registered users are sent key pieces of information by e-mail at the relevant stages throughout pregnancy and the different development stages of a child's life.
The theme of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is the ‘Power of Connection’ which is seen in various ways - through a mother’s connection with services, the connection between professionals working to support women and their families, and the value of social connection in supporting parents’ mental health. Meanwhile next week’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focussed on combatting loneliness which is experienced by everyone at one time or another.
Family Assist Solent supports both themes by enabling parents to reach out whenever they need help, often at a time when they are experiencing anxiety and sometimes exhaustion.
Kelly Pierce, Head of Integrated Early Help and Prevention, and Consultant Midwife in Public Health for both Solent NHS Trust and Portsmouth City Council, came up with the idea for Family Assist during her time working in West Sussex. She was recently awarded an MBE for her work on Family Assist during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kelly said: “We know that being a first-time parent or expanding your family can feel daunting and worrying and that this was heightened for many in West Sussex and beyond during the pandemic. We knew it was important to create a Solent version of Family Assist to give instant information and guidance from professionals in clear and reassuring ways.
“We also recognise that relatives and friends play critical roles in a parent’s support network and helping them remain connected to those nearest to them. Family Assist Solent enables users to invite these people into the portal, enabling them to join in the overall parenting journey.”
Since the rollout of the portal started in January 2022, there have been 25,000 visitor interactions with the online content being viewed more than 7,000 times, making the page 'Mental Health: During Pregnancy and After the Birth of Your Baby' the second most viewed source of information, demonstrating how effective it is in creating an online community of resources and support for new families.
Charlotte Gatehouse, Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health at Solent NHS Trust, added: ‘’A quarter of women experience mental health difficulties during pregnancy and the first 2 years after having a baby however evidence suggests there are many potential barriers to accessing support including insufficient information and stigma.
“Family Assist Solent offers an opportunity to improve care by providing discrete and accessible information and connection with services at the earliest opportunity; raising awareness of mental health difficulties and the support available with the aim to break down stigma and empower parents to reach out and be involved in decisions about their care.’’