There was a palpable sadness that settled in the room when the statistic was shared that 23% of mums’ deaths in the first year after birth are suicides. The group responded that they had washed the bodies of two women who had taken their own lives before and dealing with the autopsy was particularly distressing.

In December 2018, Best Beginnings facilitated a community workshop with fifteen members of a women’s community group called NEESA in Norwich. Funded by Comic Relief and using the Out of the Blue maternal mental health films within the Baby Buddy app, the community sessions serve as a starting point for improving conversations about maternal mental health for community leaders, thereby better equipping communities to respond to the needs of families struggling with these issues locally.

Creating a safe space

The session provided a safe space for community members to reflect on their own thoughts, feelings and actions when dealing with mental health issues. This was important an important step for learning as we started looking within and making sense of our own experiences. The group could then consider how their practice could develop, based on the knowledge gained through the session.

Learning from sharing stories

The group shared many stories of struggle such as when they persevered with supporting a family, where an Asian woman was having severe mental health issues but her husband kept it a secret because of the stigma and would not let them help. When a second period of mental ill health ensued, they were able to help her and her family to cope better. This meant that the woman now has regular visits and feels safe to share her worries and dark moments with them.

It was helpful for members to share feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, as they were able to listen to each other, offer peer support and reflect on how they would respond differently, in light of the acquired knowledge from the session.

The expert Voice

The session was a collaboration between the specialist perinatal mental health team in Norwich and Best Beginnings. Somayya Kajee Consultant Psychologist, spoke to the group about how you can help as a volunteer in the community and what signs and symptoms of mental ill health to be mindful of.

It was powerful to have a local expert in the room, as it gave an opportunity for the community and perinatal mental health team to meet in person. The group can now contact her personally, when they need advice, which builds long term sustainable relationships beyond the life of the project.

Somayya used a case study to illustrate one woman’s maternal mental health journey. This proved an effective way to explore how mental ill health can escalate quickly if not addressed within a community setting. This section overran by 25 minutes because the group wanted to share so much.

The value of self- care

The session closed with a section on the value of self- care. Many people don’t make enough time for self-care, as they don’t feel they are important enough or don’t feel they have time to do it. Returning to work, and looking after children, parents and the home are all identified as obstacles to practicing self-care. This section provided a gentle reminder about how self-care can protect us from mental health issues.  Members received a wallet sized version of New Economic Foundation’s ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ as a little gift to take home. Two fourteen-year-old teenagers who were part of the group were especially engaged in this discussion and showed maturity handling heavy emotional subjects and contributing to the group.


On reviewing workshop feedback forms, it is clear that the session made a difference. Evaluation has shown a stark increase in knowledge and confidence to support women facing maternal mental health issues. Two members also asked Best Beginnings to offer this training at a local primary school and women’s institute group, as they saw the value in others being empowered through this training.

The group leader even emailed the same day to say:


“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for organising this event - it was lovely to finally meet you and the rest of the team. I think the session was really beneficial to those who attended and to those that we can share the information with.”