There's no need to feel isolated
Caring for a young child or young person with mental health issues can be isolating.
A Suffolk charity is aiming to tackle that by reaching as many parents and carers across the county as possible with help, advice and chances to meet up.
PACT (Parents and Carers Together) was set up in 2013 and is run by parents / carers of children and young people who have had, or are currently having, issues with their mental health, meaning they are experienced in their feelings and issues.
Co-founder Bec Jasper said the group was launched at a cafe in Stowmarket when she and a friend realised that there must be other parents in Suffolk who were worried about the mental health of a child or young person.
"We knew how isolating and scary it could be to feel you are the only ones going through the experience and we had researched and found nothing available in the county. So we took the move, knowing the power of a supportive chat over a cup of coffee, and it has built from that."
PACT has gone from purely coffee and chats to inviting guest speakers, opening new meet-ups and providing training and workshops for parents in the quest to help them gain the tools to support their children and young people without their mental health deteriorating further.
One of the highlights for Bec and her team is recognition on the national stage. This has included being on the judging panel of the children and young people's award category for Positive Practice in Mental Health and being involved in national projects, such as giving input to the manual for staff to use in the new mental health support teams for schools.
But she said: "The high points are mostly hearing from our parents how, since finding us, they don't feel alone and have the strength to continue on a difficult journey. It's hard to put into words but the isolation, trauma and daily battles faced by our parents is enormous, and whenever they feedback about how we have helped in any way it means everything to us and we know there is a very real need for our little organisation. We are so strong now because of the parents we have helped previously now feel confident to support and guide new parents joining the group."
She said they were continually researching new ideas and projects alongside parents with the aim to share good ideas and therapeutic tools. "We believe in training our parents / carers to support each other and to reach as many others as possible to share the knowledge and experience we have gained," said Bec.
Bec is one of five trustees, all Suffolk parents with a wide experience of mental health and relevant issues, including anxiety, depression, self-harm, school refusal, ASD, Asperger's, OCD, eating disorders and psychosis.
Monthly support groups and meet-ups are held across the county and there's a new website to give lots of information and advice.
The group is also working with national organisations and recently linked up with the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust to help input into the Government's strategy to put a mental health support team into every school. It is also planning workshops in Suffolk alongside www.notfineinschool.org.uk.
"We have seen a very real rise in children and young people struggling in the school environment (for various reasons) with little or no support, so have developed close links with www.notfineinschool.org.uk," said Bec.
The feedback from parents included these two reviews on Facebook:
"I cannot recommend PACT enough. Amazing support and great meet-ups. I no longer feel it's just us, we are all in the same boat. Friendly, kind and understanding people."
"Amazing to have other people (parents / carers) who are so understanding, knowledgeable and compassionate. We are all in the same boat and people in this group are so supportive and lovely, it makes me have hope for our future as raising children with special needs. Thank you all so much, I can't explain how much you have helped my family simply by making me feel less of an odd egg and other people are going through the same thing and understand."
Find out more at www.parentsandcarerstogether.co.uk