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Dales mum on the road to recovery
WHEN magazine writer Amy Grace had her first child she was thrilled.
The 36-year-old, and her husband Richard, had been dreaming of a baby and newborn James was everything they had hoped for.
However, while their new son provided a huge reason to be cheerful, Amy also began to experience post-natal anxiety.
She said fears that she would not cope with motherhood made her ‘feel like a failure’.
Her anxiety continued when she moved to Kendal last year, to be close to her parents and to allow Richard to take on a new job as a graphic designer.
She said: “I would get upset or tearful when small things started to go wrong or we were running late for a baby group or get-together.
“It made me nervous about meeting groups of new friends which was completely out of character for me as I’m naturally a social butterfly!
“I would worry about what people would think if I couldn’t get James to lie still to have his nappy changed, or if he wouldn’t get into his car seat in a car park, or if he didn’t want to put his shoes on when we were setting off from somewhere.”
In January, Amy was referred to First Step by a health visitor who realised she was struggling to cope. She described this as a ‘saving service’ – and thousands would agree.
It was set up three years ago to offer counselling and support to Cumbrians suffering a range of mild to moderate mental health conditions.
Around 100 therapists work in the group to treat sufferers of depression, panic disorders, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and phobias.
They cope with 15,000 referrals a year in Cumbria and see 200 South Lakeland patients every month.
Patients can telephone the service, run through Cumbria Partnership NHS Trust, or can be referred by their GP.
First Step then offers face-to-face therapy at doctors’ surg-eries, hospitals and community bases, as well as providing self-help literature, and telephone counselling.
Clinical psychologist Richard Thwaites leads the group. He watched it swell from 50 to 100 staff in its first year to cope with demand for counselling from people like Amy.
The 40-year-old said: “Mental health used to be something that wasn’t discussed. However, I guarantee you will work with someone or have someone in your family who is affected even if you are not.
“Some people have had problems for 15 years because services before were not set up but we see many of these coming forward now.
“We look at the way patients feel and how they could chal-lenge their thinking. We look at what might keep their behaviour going. My favourite bit of the week is being with the patients. Within 10 to 20 sessions people can turn their lives around.”
The group is set to launch class therapy sessions to help people cope with anxiety. Sessions will start at Kendal’s Stricklandgate House, on October 28.
Amy, Richard and James now live in Sedbergh. Amy began counselling with two therapists who 'both helped tremendously'. They saw her at appointments every two weeks, which finished in July Amy said: “When the counsel-ling ended, it wasn’t a case of feeling I was fully fixed or back to normal but I felt I had learned new skills for coping and that I wasn’t unusual.
“I still have wobbly days sometimes but can go back to my worksheets, notes and diaries I kept through counselling and I know that if I need to, I can self-refer and see a practitioner.”
To contact First Step call 0300 123 9122 or visit their website at cumbriapartnership.nhs.uk/ first-step.htm.