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Our service offering has been shaped around the parents we support, with compassion and kindness at its roots. Our premise was to create safe, non-judgmental spaces in which parents can connect with peers and benefit from a combination of services at a vulnerable time in their lives.
Smile’s team has grown organically over the years, combining lived experience with professional insight. Our team is the lifeblood of the organisation and brings a blend of expertise with first-hand understanding of the reality of living through perinatal mental health challenges.
Ruth co-founded Smile in 2011 with Natalie and is the charity’s Operations Director. Like Natalie she had experience of perinatal mental illness and was adamant that more support was needed for families across Cheshire East at a community level.
Ruth looks after all things behind the scenes, from HR to finance, funding, team management, policies and safeguarding.
Speaking about why she set up Smile, Ruth said: “I desperately wanted someone else to talk to about how I was feeling to ‘normalise’ some of the feelings. I genuinely think this might have stopped me feeling as bad as I did back in 2010. Having peer support – people who have been there to talk to gives you hope and is different to engaging with professionals.”
She enjoys meeting families and always finds it really moving to receive testimonials from people who have benefitted from Smile’s services.
Her words of comfort for parents are: “You’re not alone, you can and will get better. There’ll be bad days and good days, but the good days will increase.”
Ruth counts setting up Smile as ‘up there’ in her achievements and proud moments and reflects that out of a negative experience came a positive and it’s humbling to be able to help others on their journey.
Natalie co-founded Smile Group alongside Ruth in 2011 after experiencing postnatal depression and seeing a glaring gap in community support. She is passionate about the creation of trusted spaces that enable parents to have honest conversations about the reality of their experiences of perinatal mental health challenges.
Natalie is a Director of Smile and provides strategic oversight, focusing particularly on stakeholder relationship development and communications. She is also Lead Coordinator of The Hearts and Minds Partnership, a national collective of three perinatal mental health charities; Acacia Family Support, Bluebell Care and Smile Group, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund to help connect and support grassroots perinatal health services across England.
Speaking about Smile she said: “I feel privileged to be part of such a wonderful team who are so compassionate and caring but also understand the importance of rigour and quality in the work we do. Smile is always learning and is dedicated to providing safe, targeted support for families when they need it most.”
Sue came through Smile’s services as a mum in 2012 and once she had fully recovered, she began working with us as a Group Facilitator in 2013. Now working as a Wellbeing Practitioner, Sue co-facilitates groups and carries out home visits.
Sue is passionate about peer support and believes it’s incredibly powerful to be able to say to someone “I understand, you’re not alone and this will pass.” She loves being able to support people and provide a safe space for honesty as well as hope. Nothing gives her greater pleasure than seeing parents feel well again and to see so many lifelong friendships blossom from meeting parents going through a similar journey.
Her words of reassurance to those who are reticent about coming along are “Just come along, the sense of not being alone is so powerful. We don’t sit in a circle and all share, it’s up to you how much you share and with whom. It was a real turning point in my recovery coming to Smile.”
Bronya began working with Smile in 2016 and came through our service after attending our Congleton group in 2014 after her second son was born. She is a Wellbeing Practitioner, co-facilitating our peer support groups and supporting parents on a 1-1 basis as part of our Home Visits Programme.
In her own words she says: “I was lucky to receive support from Smile as a mum when I needed it the most. I’d managed to hide my crumbling feelings behind a mask; even those closest to me had no idea how desperate I was feeling. It was a real lightbulb moment to attend the group, to see I wasn’t alone in my feelings and that I could talk honestly about my experiences with no judgement. Through my own experience, I am now able to help others which is a really special thing.”
Bronya is really passionate about her work with Smile and is constantly inspired by the families she meets – more than they will ever know. Bronya feels it’s important that there is balance and sensitivity at groups as there’s often lots of chatting and laughing, but the team are there to listen if support is needed.
Zoe joined the Smile team in March 2021 as a Wellbeing Practitioner, co-facilitating peer support services for parents as well as 1-1 support across Nantwich and Sandbach.
She acknowledges that being a new parent dealing with emotional wellbeing challenges can be a scary place to find yourself in, and it can be hard reaching out for help. Smile offers a relaxed, welcoming environment without any judgement, agenda or pressure. Mums and dads with similar experiences have the opportunity to get together to laugh, cry, talk, or not talk (it’s totally up to you) over a cuppa.
Commenting on the value of organisations like Smile Zoe said: “The support from charities like Smile is vital in helping parents affected by perinatal mental health challenges to realise they’re not alone and that support is available. The support can be life changing for the better – not only for the mum or partner – but for the entire family unit.”
Find out how you can give back and help Smile to support more families in our local community