Sarah’s Story

Sarah’s Story


The Family: Mum Sarah / Dad Tom
Isla age 5 / Mia age 3 / Oliver age 14 months


Sarah had a difficult childhood, fraught with conflict and her father’s mental health difficulties. As she grew up and married Tom she became determined her children would have a happy childhood. ‘That was easier said than done’, she told her Parenting Project counsellor.

Following the birth of her daughter Isla, Sarah felt very low in her mood. She felt detached from reality at times. She went to see her GP who suggested it was post-natal depression and prescribed her anti-depressants.

Sarah accepted this and continued to muddle through. She went on to have two other children – she and Tom decided before they married that they wanted three children. Outwardly Sarah pretended she was coping. Inwardly she was in turmoil and didn’t understand why she felt so awful. She began to lose her grip on her role as a parent. Getting through each day became more and more difficult. She used alcohol in the evenings to help her mood but felt worse the next day. She would cry a lot and this was observed by the children.

Isla became withdrawn and subdued and Mia was regularly wetting the bed. Isla’s school work began to suffer. Sarah’s state of mind was difficult for Tom to understand and the situation put an enormous strain on their marriage. Tom became absent on a regular basis. He was worried and his job was at risk. They fell behind with their rent payments.

Sarah saw her doctor again. She was very scared that things would not change for her or her family. Her GP suggested she talked with her Health Visitor. There were few options available for Sarah in the NHS. Counselling was not available in her surgery and her GP did not consider her to be ‘ill enough’ to be referred to the NHS psychological support services.

Sarah’s Health Visitor was called Mary. She understood, like most Health Visitors in Warwickshire, that The Parenting Project would be able to support Sarah. It was then that Mary made a referral to The Parenting Project’s Family Wellbeing Pathway.

Family Wellbeing Pathway

Within three days of the referral, Sarah was contacted by The Parenting Project’s Family Wellbeing Lead, who organised an assessment with Sarah during a home visit the following week. Sarah was relieved to be able to share her experiences with a skilled and experienced practitioner. During the visit Sarah was reassured and the assessment was completed together with a risk assessment and all relevant permissions. Sarah chose to have Tom present.

The assessment helped our Family Wellbeing Lead to identify Sarah’s and the family’s needs. She agreed a support plan with Sarah which included the following:

Trauma Informed Counselling Therapy for Sarah – up to eighteen sessions (beyond if required) accessed in the local Children and Family Centre.

One-to-one Family Support – provided by a Family Wellbeing Facilitator in the home. The plan was put in place to help Sarah and Tom address their children’s difficulties and build their confidence as parents.

Parent Mentoring – provided by a volunteer Parent Mentor supported by The Parenting Project’s Parent Mentor Lead.


Sarah received counselling for 16 weeks. It was not easy for her initially but she learned that her mental health difficulties were rooted in the trauma she had experienced in childhood. She is now feeling much better overall. There are still days when Sarah feels low but, in her words:

‘I understand where my feelings come from and that having children brought them to the surface. On the bad days, this helps me to cope.’

Providing a pathway of support for Sarah, based on improvements in mental health, has prevented the family difficulties from escalating to a point of crisis. The family is more empowered as a whole and continues to build on this strength. Some of the accomplishments they have made by working alongside The Parenting Project are:

• Sarah now only drinks socially and has moderated the amount she was drinking.

• Tom spends much more time with Sarah and the children. He supports and understands Sarah’s mental health needs.

• The relationship between Sarah and Tom is improving – the Parent Mentor still visits on a weekly basis to guide Sarah and Tom in their parenting role.

• The rent arrears have been addressed and a payment plan is now in place and on track.

• Isla has become more relaxed and happy. The school is pleased with her engagement in learning and her progress.

• Mia has stopped wetting the bed and is happy at Nursery.

• Oliver is developing well and is a happy child.

• Sarah is now enjoying parenthood and enjoys spending time with her children on most days.

• Sarah has now stopped taking anti-depressants and enjoys being in touch with her feelings and dealing with them.

“I understand where my feelings come from and that having children brought them to the surface. On the bad days, this helps me to cope.”

Emily’s Story

Emily’s Story

AGE 10

The Family: Mum Hannah / Dad Paul / Emily age 10 / Lottie age 14

Emily began to find it hard being a ten-year-old as well as being the youngest member of the family. She also noticed some changes in the way she felt about herself and the people around her. She began to have mood swings at home and in school. Her teacher noticed that Emily was falling out with her friends and would throw things around the class when she was upset. Emily’s mum, Hannah, found this hard to deal with when Emily was upset. The more Emily struggled to cope with how she felt, the more upset she became. She started to tell Hannah that she wanted to hurt herself.

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