With neonatal mental health awareness week fast approaching we have been looking at some of the ways we offer support to families on the neonatal unit. At Spoons we are very big on neonatal peer support and mental health support. We have been providing peer support for families on the neonatal unit for the last four years.

The benefits of peer support on the neonatal unit are huge, both for the person being supported and the peer supporter. Peer support can have a positive impact on long term mental health and well being, and can reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation on the neonatal unit. It encourages people to talk about their thoughts and feelings in a safe space, forming positive relationships between people who have a shared experience. Peer support relationships often continue after discharge and peer supporters are in a good position to sign post parents who may need specialist support services, including referrals to the mental health support, trauma therapy and EMDR that we are able to fund for parents who have experienced neonatal care.

Peer support can increase feelings of self esteem and confidence for the peer supporter. Our neonatal unit peer support volunteers tell us that their peer support role has helped them view their own neonatal experience in a positive light, which has had a positive impact on their mental health. We also offer Spoons peer support volunteers a one to one supervision with a professional trauma therapist. It is important to us that we support the mental health of the peer supporter and we want to provide them with a safe space to offload emotionally.

spoons charity peer support volunteer

We now have a total of 7 peer support volunteers working across the neonatal units at North Manchester General Hospital and the NICU at Royal Oldham Hospital. What makes our peer support service special is that all our volunteers are parents who have experienced neonatal care and want to help other parents with a sick or premature baby. In January this year we held our very first neonatal peer support training day. The Spoons peer support training package has been designed in house with input from one of our volunteers who has a background in HR and from our founder who has a background in counselling. The training day was a huge success and the feedback from our peer support volunteers has been fantastic. They now feel like they have the tools and techniques to be confident enough to go back onto the neonatal unit to support families of sick and premature babies. We are now in a great position to recruit and train more peer support volunteers, giving us the opportunity to support more parents who have experienced neonatal care across the Greater Manchester. As well as providing peer support we also bring parents together, both on the unit and in the community, meaning they establish their own relationships and create their own support networks with other parents. It is really quite special to watch.

So to our peer support volunteers: you are helping us to have a positive impact on the mental health of so many families in neonatal care. We couldn’t do it without you guys. Thank you – you’re all amazing!

If you would like to become a Spoons peer support volunteer get in touch.