Voluntary Parental Peer Advocate

I am currently providing Volunteer Peer advocacy support in children’s centers around the Borough this includes libraries and other events where we get the opportunity to speak to parents and hand out literature promoting the service.

The Volunteer Parental Peer Advocacy service is operated by Mind in Croydon and funded by Comic Relief. The purpose of the project is to empower parents of children aged 0-18 who may be experiencing mental health problems by sign posting them to the agencies who may be able to assist and advise them on the problems they are facing. For instance I was able to assist a man I met at a dad’s group that was experiencing anxiety and had issues around benefits, housing and antisocial behavior. With the assistance of the Parenting Advocate Nichola I was able to sign post him to the appropriate benefits advice services such as Mind in Croydon.  I also provided contact details of Hear Us, as they are able to assist service users with filling in forms.

I feel the most stressful job in society for me is being a parent. It does not come with a manual. There are many experiences as a parent that can cause a previously well balanced parent to suffer mental health problems, such as divorce and the isolation and loneliness that accompanies becoming a single parent. Financial problems; it is very difficult trying to manage a tight budget especially if you are a single parent and your child wants the most expensive pair of trainers or mobile phone due to peer pressure and you do not want your child to be socially excluded because of poverty.

Other issues may arise for parents if their teenage children experience peer pressure and truancy when a teen age girl or boy refuses to go to school and the parent is called to a meeting with the educational welfare officer and told to make sure the child attends school or face prosecution. These issues may cause conflict and stress in the relationship between parent and child which only increases anxiety, not only for the parent, but also for the child. There is little wonder that so many parents experience mental health problems and there is a very real need for the parental peer advocacy service.

The reason I was motivated to become a voluntary peer advocate is because I have experienced many of the problems mentioned above and I want to help parents in a similar position. Life circumstances left me bringing up five children as a single parent following my marital break up.

For me there was a light at the end of the tunnel, Nine years on my children are now well balanced young adults, three of my daughters are married and I have three grandchildren and my son now has a responsible job working for the local authority and no longer requires medication. I am very proud of my children.

By John Holmes Volunteer Peer Advocate for the Parenting Advocacy Service Mind in Croydon.