A Midlothian group that has supported women with mental health issues for nine years now continues to grow as it looks to the future.
Pink Ladies 1st helps women in Midlothian and further afield with issues including those arising from domestic or sexual abuse, and drug/alcohol dependency. Funded by Midlothian Council, the NHS and local mental health charity MELDAP, it helps women of all ages from all backgrounds, with current members aged from 18 to 86.
The group’s co-founder Maria Martin explained more.
She said: “My colleague Sheila and I started this group for women who were isolated. It grew from there and we found that a lot of them suffered from depression.
“For the last four years it has been a registered charity.
“We look after women with mental health issues such as anxiety and also drug and alcohol dependency and domestic abuse.
“We found that most of the women coming had mental health issues.
“We developed a self management programme for women trying to deal with long term conditions but with support.
It means managing yourself at home. We also offer continuous support which a lot of other services can’t.
“Since we began, about 700 women have entered the programme. Maybe 120 women go through every year. We had 110 referrals for our last programme in February. It started off with ten and now it’s a very popular organisation, providing a popular service.”
Maria hopes the group can take their work into schools.
She said: “Hopefully these women will manage their conditions and lead a more stable life. It’s like an intervention. Hopefully they can then go back to work or they actually volunteer for us.
“We currently have eight peer supporter volunteers.
“The friendship hub runs weekly. The women run it themselves.
“They have started a craft class. And they are talking about a weekly drop-in.
“We are hoping to get more staff to expand the service.
“It’s person centred so the women can choose the level of support they require.
“Our aim is to expand. We would like to go into schools and speak to young girls suffering from mental health issues, through things like social media.
“We have had women who have been on anti-deperessants for 25 years.
“If we started putting this in schools back then we wouldn’t have these issues now.”
Pink Ladies 1st co-founder Maria Martin explained where the group’s name comes from.
She said: “I think Pink Ladies 1st is extremely important and I think it’s quite unique.
“Both Sheila and I come from not an academic background, but a lived background.
“It’s called Pink Ladies because Sheila and I are both Grease fans. And in that The Pink Ladies are a feisty bunch of ladies that support each other.
“We added first as there was another group out there and we didn’t want to get confused with them. It’s also the ‘first’ step in your journey to recovery when you join our group.”
Each year Pink Ladies 1st runs a number of eight-week group courses of self-management programmes plus one-to-one coaching, email and telephone support by trained volunteers. It also offers ongoing peer support and weekly support groups.