A mum who battled post-natal depression has set up a support group to help women struggling with mental illness.
Rachel Henrys, of Regent Street, Coppull, developed the condition after the birth of her daughter, Amelia, who is now two-and-a-half years old.
Rachel, who also has post-traumatic stress disorder, said: “When I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, that was horrific.
“It was a really dark time in my life.
“I worked really hard to get through that.
“Then I had my daughter and developed post-natal depression.
“Because I was already prone to it, I kind of expected it.”
Baby Amelia was born prematurely and Rachel struggled to cope with being a new mum.
She said: “It was very difficult. When Amelia was born, it was so overwhelming. I felt this pressure to be the perfect mum.
“I struggled with breast-feeding and I left everything to my husband. I shied away.
“I threw myself into work and didn’t spend any time with her.”
Rachel had the support of her husband, Luke, a specialist mental health midwife, health visitors and Duke Street children’s centre as she dealt with her depression.
She underwent cognitive behavioural therapy - a talking therapy - and started going to local groups and meeting other people.
Rachel, 28, said: “I realised there were a lot of other women in the area who were struggling and felt isolated.”
She spoke to her health visitor, Carol Snape, about an idea for a support group for women with mental health issues and she helped her to apply for funding.
Rachel and her sister-in-law, Louise Henrys, set up the group, named HOPE - Helping Others Progress Everyday - as part of a Government initiative called Building Community
Louise, 26, was diagnosed with depression and a social disorder two years and the pair wanted to help other women.
The group provides help for women with mental illness and allows them to meet other people, learn how to cope with their condition and find out where they can get further support.
The first session was held at Coppull Library last Monday and was attended by 10 women.
Rachel said: “The women have been talking about medication and helping each other. They have come together and it’s wonderful.
“Some women have felt so isolated and knowing they have this group to come to gives them the courage to get through the week.”
Louise, of Sussex Place, Buckshaw Village, added: “We are both surprised with how well it’s going. We didn’t think it would be as big as it is.”
A key part of the group is rescue boxes, which are given to each of the women taking part.
Rachel said: “I came up with the idea that when you are in a crisis and you haven’t got the will to pick up the phone or talk to someone, it would be great to have these boxes filled with things that would instantly improve your mood.
“In the boxes, we have donations from Lush, a chocolate bar, a piece of paper with contacts on like Mind and the Samaritans, nail varnish and things like that.
“The women absolutely love them.
“It’s a starter for them and they can build it up. They can put in a family photograph or anything they like.”
Rachel and Louise are working with Lancashire Mind, children’s centres and other organisations.
The group runs for six weeks but there has been so much demand that the waiting list for the next set is already full.
Rachel hopes to set up groups around the borough and is already considering Chorley Library and Buckshaw Village Community Centre as other possible locations.
The women in the groups could even go on to set up their own in future.
She said: “So many women want to join and I’m trying to make sure that everyone gets a place.”
There have also been calls for Rachel to set up a similar group for men.
She said: “I’m working on setting up a men’s group as well with Mind. I felt if it was a mixture, some women might struggle with that.”
And the women in the group are not the only people benefiting from it.
Louise said: “It’s as much about myself and Rachel as all the group members. It’s helping us all.”
To find out more about HOPE, call Rachel on 01257 671025.