Women’s Resource and Development Agency’s, Mas project (Maternal Advocacy & Support) have partnered with 8 women’s centres in the Belfast, Lisburn and Derry/Londonderry areas to provide peer support groups for women who are experiencing perinatal mental health problems. The women’s centres involved in the Mas project are Windsor, Falls, Footprints, Atlas, Ballybeen, Greenway, Women’s Centre Derry and Strathfoyle. The project also provides a platform for women to talk about their experiences in the health care system and advise on areas that could be developed to improve services for women in Northern Ireland
During the pilot project this flyer about Maternal Mental Health was developed which you can download here You can read the pilot project evaluation of the MAS pilot project here. During the pilot the event, which was called BRAVE, was featured on NVTV’s news programme ‘The Round-Up’ which you can watch here. The roll out of the three year Mas project is now supported by Big Lottery Community Fund.
Women in the Mas project have benefited from a range of initiatives and workshops t including mindfulness, art for wellbeing, cupcake making, doula support, life coaching sessions to support their mental health and promote emotional wellbeing.
In addition, we have talked to women about their experiences in the Mas groups and have met with Mas advocates in each group to map out a vision for change and service improvement. We are planning a public event in November 2021 to highlight some of the key areas for change and will invite decision makers to listen to the lived experience of women.
The project is supported by Aware NI who provide Mental Health First Aid and peer support training for project staff and participants. In Year 2 of the project we will initiate the next phase of Mas that will enable participants/ advocates to train as group leaders and facilitate their own sessions. Lived experience is at the heart of the Mas project, empowering women to lead the project and service, shaped by their own experiences.
At WRDA we have developed our own Mas Project OCN Level 3 including modules in Perinatal Mental Health, Peer Support, Communicating and Advocating, Collective Campaigning. We have trained Mas project staff and will be offering the course to project participants and Mas advocates.
WRDA is delighted that the funding for a specialist perinatal mental health community service model for Northern Ireland has been approved. This service will make a huge difference for women who meet the criteria for specialist support and we look forward to the development of this service across all 5 trusts. We also affirm our commitment to a permanent mother and baby unit in Northern Ireland as we are now the only part of the UK without this essential service for women in need of the highest level of care. AS we enter Year 2 the Mas women will engage in campaigning and advocacy work that will highlight areas in need of improvement in relation to perinatal mental health.
We are members of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and delighted to support, Everyone’s Business Campaign.
The Mas project support and practice the 5 principles of perinatal mental health peer support:
We have a range of promotional material to support the MAs project which you can view below..