Nothing can quite prepare you for the physical and emotional changes you’ll experience when you become a parent. For some parents the emotional changes can turn into something more serious, and they need support from health care professionals, and organisations such as Light – a charity working to support the emotional wellbeing & mental health of mums and their families in Sheffield and beyond, during pregnancy, birth and afterwards.
We spoke to Jo, Service Manager at Light, to find out more about the care and support the charity provides to parents in the city.
For those who are not familiar with Light Sheffield, please give us an overview of the amazing work that you do.
Light is a charity working hard to support the emotional wellbeing and mental health of mums in Sheffield during pregnancy, birth and afterwards. Up to 20% of women develop a mental health problem around child birth and although statutory services support the most severely affected women, those with mild to moderate perinatal mental ill health often receive little or no support. Light was set up by mums who struggled with their own mental health after the birth of their children and recognised that there was a gap in support available. Light focuses on the evidence based power of peer support to aid recovery and the need to be able to share experiences freely without judgement with people who have had similar experiences.
Light currently offers pre and post-natal peer support groups and a one to one service, all undertaken by our small staff team and incredibly dedicated volunteer network. We run four groups across Sheffield offering a friendly, safe space for mums from diverse backgrounds to come together and share their experiences and feelings. Mums feeling unable to attend group can access our one to one support service, which involves us linking a mum and a volunteer up directly for some short term dedicated support either face to face at a local park or café, over the phone or via email. We also have a free counselling service and secure online forum.
How many families access support through your service, and what are the reasons behind their referrals to you?
Last year we supported 150 mums and families, we hope to build on that this year and reach even more of those that need support. The women we work with experience a wide range of symptoms. Some feel incredibly guilty, scared, some feel numb, they can feel that their child and family would be better off without them or that they will never be good enough. Others may have had a traumatic birth experience and keep reliving the trauma over and over, or keep constantly crying and not know why. Some struggle to eat, can’t sleep or motivate themselves to do anything. Light exists to help with all of these feelings and more.
We also know that it is not just mums that are affected, dads can experience paternal depression and the whole family is impacted when mum or dad is struggling. We offer support to dads through our one to one service and Forum and hope to offer more in the future for the whole family together.
Do you work alongside other organisations and charities in the city or further afield?
Sheffield is an amazing city with a wide variety of fantastic organisations, charities and individuals who have really pushed the perinatal mental health agenda forward here. We feel privileged to work with local health services such as the Perinatal Mental Health Service, Sheffield Health and Social Care Foundation Trust, local charities such as Forging Families, Home Start South Yorkshire, Voluntary Action Sheffield, Sheffield Sling Library & Surgery, Sheffield NCT, and Mums in Need to name but a few, as well as Sheffield City Council and both Universities. We also look to other organisations further afield doing fantastic work such as the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, the Association for Postnatal Illness, PANDAS, the Marce Society and many more!
How can SheffGives followers get involved and lend their support to your charity?
There are so many ways to get involved with Light, we rely heavily on grant funding and donations and so are incredibly grateful for any support given.
Volunteering – Light is all about peer support and we obviously wouldn’t be able to offer this without our amazing volunteers. All our volunteers have lived experience of pre or post-natal depression or other forms of low mood or anxiety during pregnancy or afterwards so that they are able to empathise, share and listen to the mums and families we support, offering them stories of hope and recovery. We have other roles too that we need volunteers for such as fundraising, promotion and administration.
Donations – From individual donations, one off or monthly donations to corporate donations we couldn’t do it without our amazing supporters. Every donation we receive goes directly to sustaining and developing the work we do to support mums and families across Sheffield and beyond. Donations are gratefully received though our MyDonate page or by getting in touch with us.
Fundraising – Many of our supporters have faced big challenges to raise money for Light, we currently have Neil training hard for the London Marathon next month who is doing an amazing job raising money for us. We have been the very lucky recipients of raffle money from the Sling Exhibition, had amazing support from Sheffield 7 Hills Women’s Institute and many other individual and on going offers of support. They all mean so much. We have been working hard planning some brilliant events to fundraise this year so watch out for announcements shortly!
Advocacy & publicity – We want to do all that we can to break down stigma around mental health and particularly perinatal mental health. We love our supporters to get involved and help us do this by showing support for Light in anyway they are able, we are always looking for new ways to reach the mums and families that need us.
If you are able to support Light in any way please visit our MyDonate page or get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you!
And finally, what is the best thing about working for Light?
I have been blown away by the commitment, dedication, empathy, warmth and care shown by the volunteers, Light staff, mums and families that we meet everyday. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of something so special and the best thing has to be when we get feedback from a mum who has really felt supported and helped by Light. It really is so special.
“Group is a life-saver for me and my little girl, it really does make me feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel” “you never feel alone on your journey and you always get excellent help and support from staff and the other mums”
To find out more about the work of Light, watch their video here ❤