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Two years on and The SMILE Group continues to blossom

The SMILE Group was set up by two Cheshire parents, Natalie Nuttall and Ruth Eglin, who had personal experience of post natal depression (PND) and identified a vital gap in community support services.

On Mother’s Day 2011 The SMILE Group launched in Macclesfield, offering weekly group sessions at Hurdsfield Children’s Centre on Fridays from 10-noon. Natalie and Ruth wanted parents to be reassured that they could come to a friendly, welcoming place each week, bring their babies and toddlers and chat to others in a similar situation.

Although the NHS reports that approximately 1 in 10 people are affected by PND, the reality is perhaps more like 1 in 5 as many go under the radar. This is due to the fact that many don’t feel confident seeking medical support or they simply don’t recognise the symptoms they are experiencing, so go undiagnosed.

Awareness of PND remains an issue and education is still vital to ensure parents receive the support they require.
Commenting on this, Natalie said: “We welcome up to 25 people each week (including babies and toddlers) and we’ve noticed that each individual’s experience is different. While some people may be affected by anxiety, insomnia or low mood, others may have difficulties bonding with their child or just feel overwhelmed by parenthood. The fact that no two experiences are the same can make it hard for people to realise it’s an illness and that help is at hand. We want to make it easier for people to access help by signposting support services.”

The SMILE Group has continued to attract an increasing number of parents, babies and tots to its weekly sessions since its inception. With referrals from health visitors, midwives, GPs and therapy services, the group has plugged a gap in local support and has now extended its services to monthly sessions at JJ’s Sensory Play in Macclesfield.

Visitors to the group can benefit from a rolling programme of complementary therapists each month offering taster sessions of reiki, yoga, nutritional advice, shiatsu and reflexology. This is a valuable opportunity for mums and dads to enjoy some moments of ‘me time’ and to remind them of the value of a more holistic approach to wellbeing.

Commenting on the group’s plans for the year ahead, Ruth said: “We’ve secured some funding from the local authority as well as a local community grant and are always reviewing opportunities to finance new initiatives and ensure we remain sustainable.
“We’re hoping to do a 5k run later in the year to encourage fundraising and have some exciting projects in the pipeline to help boost the support for vulnerable mums and dads affected by PND.”

The group is a very relaxed and welcoming environment and attendees can come as often or as little as they like. The aim is to ensure it’s totally unintimidating and that help is at hand on a consistent basis, which is integral to recovery.

For more details about The SMILE Group contact thesmilegrouporg@gmail.com .

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