A local charity has launched a new campaign to raise awareness and funds to support vulnerable families with young children living in Aberdeen.
Home-Start Aberdeen has introduced its Healthy Minds campaign after a new YouGov survey revealed that over half of parents of under 5s are struggling to cope.
The charity, which has been providing crucial help for struggling young families for over three decades, has been responding to the growing need for emotional support.
Throughout the pandemic and series of widespread lockdowns, it has witnessed the growing challenges and isolation for many parents with young children and the impact this is having on their wellbeing.
Healthy Minds will help more parents in need of help to deal with the challenges they face.
Since the start of the pandemic, Home-Start expanded one of its projects, a weekly group called Rising Stars, which focuses on encouraging social interaction, learning and development for children and their parents.
In response to the requested needs from parents, the charity started operating a further evening group – Evening Stars – directly for them.
Meeting online, the group provides them with a safe place to share experiences, concerns, anxieties and get support and reassurance from experienced volunteers and other parents.
Over the next three months the charity plans to shine a light on mental health, sharing supportive resources, hosting online events and encouraging people to donate or get involved in fundraising activities linked to maintaining a healthy mind.
Funds raised will help the charity to continue and expand its Evening Stars project which is providing vital help to tackle mental health, anxiety, and isolation for parents.
Eleanor McEwan, general manager at Home-Start, said: “Parental wellbeing is paramount in order to support our children.
“Coronavirus has hit these families particularly hard, putting their mental health under immense strain.
“It’s now more important than ever that we can provide vital emotional support to parents to avoid burnout and breakdown.”
The increase in loneliness for parents is more apparent in the most deprived areas.
There has been a rise in the proportion of parents who feel uncomfortable seeking help for how they are feeling from 18% before the pandemic to 34% during it.
Home-Start aims to improve this issue by supporting those affected by social isolation, bereavement, relationship problems, illness, disability and financial hardship.
This is currently done in line with coronavirus restrictions, with people being assisted appropriately by technology, video chat and emails as well as the usual phone calls and text messages.
Twenty-nine-year-old Becca Lilley, from the Seafield area of Aberdeen, attends the Home-Start Evening Stars group, which runs every second Tuesday. She lives with her three-year-old son Alfie.
Becca said: “I heard about Home-Start’s Evening Stars after I had recently joined the group, Rising Stars, which takes place on a Friday morning where the kids come along.
“I really enjoyed the Friday group and when I found out Evening Stars was a group just for mums to have a natter and a chat without the kids in the evening, I thought it was a really good idea and wanted to be a part of it – although the kids are still involved in some way or other.”
Becca explained that she has struggled with having a lack of freedom during the pandemic, as well as being unable to socialise with others face-to-face as much as she would like.
She added: “I really miss being able to go out with friends and visit each other’s houses to have play dates, as well as visiting family members who live away from me – in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“Being busy is something I’ve always liked as it keeps my mind at bay and I feel I am much calmer when I am around people.
“People don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. Communication is dying as everyone is so mentally exhausted with everything and no one has much chat or news to tell.
“The lockdowns and isolation from friends, family and getting out and about for our usual routines have been really hard on my mental health.
“Evening Stars offers a chance for mums of the group to come and have a chat and blether and help each other with any queries they may have. I love it and have made friends through it.
“Not everyone comes along each time but you soon get to know the regulars.
“We have themed nights sometimes, but often enough we just sit and chat. The only thing missing is the cafe/restaurant atmosphere.
“We have proposed quiz nights. And are even speaking about arranging a get-together for just the mums in the evening when we are allowed out again.
“Home-Start and Evening Stars feel like a mini family to me and I know they are there if needed.
“It’s been horrible and terribly hard at times, but Home-Start has really been a lifeline to Alfie and I during this time. No one should be ashamed to ask for help.”
The charity will announce events and share activities on its website and social media channels over the coming weeks, as well as having launched a JustGiving campaign appeal for donations.