Mums set up support group for postnatal depression sufferers

Norwich mums Lucy Cox and Polly Manning, with Polly's children Layla and Amelia, who are setting up

Norwich mums Lucy Cox and Polly Manning, with Polly's children Layla and Amelia, who are setting up a playgroup for women in the area who suffer from postnatal depression.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Mums Lucy Cox and Polly Manning suffered so badly from postnatal depression, they did not think they would see 2014.

But with each other's help they have battled the condition and vowed to turn their negative experience into a positive, by setting up a playgroup to help other sufferers.

In what they describe as their 'dark days' the pair, who met through their family support worker, could not carry out day-to-day tasks such as making a cup of tea.

'It got so bad that I wasn't capable of getting out of bed,' said Miss Cox, 24.

'We both knew something wasn't right but we didn't know what was happening to us. We had to call for help. I couldn't even make a cup of tea - I didn't know what I was doing.'

For both women, from Thorpe St Andrew, the depression set in with the birth of their second child and came with an enormous amount of guilt.

'I think people don't talk about postnatal depression because of the fear of other peoples opinions of it – being judged by other people,' said Mrs Manning, 26.

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'I felt like such a failure to my children and my husband. How could I be feeling like this when I had so much?'

Miss Cox said: 'It can happen to absolutely anybody. I was fine with my first child, I didn't know anything about postnatal depression. But then it hit me.'

The women looked for help locally, but found there were no groups specifically for women with postnatal depression.

'When I was having really bad days, I would be at home searching on the Internet for support groups for people with postnatal depression but there was nothing in Norwich,' said Miss Cox.

'Counselling is really hard to come across. It takes ages to get referred, so when you actually need it there is nothing there.'

Knowing how important their friendship was in getting them through tough times, the pair decided they would be the ones to start a local weekly playgroup for mothers with postnatal depression.

'We have both felt like we didn't want to do anything and we have both really supported each other,' said Lucy.

'We are just saying to people, come out if you are feeling really rubbish. You don't have to make a big effort, you don't have to put your make-up on. When I had a bad day, I felt too anxious to go to groups.'

Mrs Manning added: 'We can all put on an act and say we are fine but it gets to the point where you can't do that anymore.

'We are not saying you have to come and pour your heart out to us. Just come and be in an environment where you feel safe and secure. The biggest struggle is going to be getting some mums out of the house.'

The playgroup, called the 'It's OK not to be OK Norwich Support Group' is being supported by postnatal depression charity Pandas and will be held at the Thorpe Hamlet Sure Start Centre, Wolfe Road in Norwich, on Wednesdays from 1-2.30pm.

Run by Miss Cox and Mrs Manning, the free group will offer refreshments, toys and a weekly activity for those who attend.

They are keen to stress the group is open to everyone who does not feel like attending other baby groups, not just people who have been diagnosed with postnatal depression.

'We don't want people to get anxious every week and dread it,' said Mrs Manning.

'We are volunteers, we are not counselors, and we are not professionals.

We might be a shoulder to lean on, to say 'it's ok, we have felt like that'.

We have lived through postnatal depression. We are not ashamed of it – it's not a choice we have made. But if we can use our negative experience to start up this group to help other mums who are going through this, then we have turned that negative into a positive.'

For more information, visit the Facebook group 'It's ok not to be ok : ) Norwich support playgroup'.