Alexa's Story: Managing anger and learning parenting skills

€œI believe every mum should get the help they need. Because you don't want your child to grow up negatively affected by your mental health issues.€

My daughter Ruby is 15 months old. I received little help during my pregnancy, did not attend any parenting classes or have access to any support groups. I have struggled with mental health problems, particularly anger management. Becoming pregnant caused me a lot of anxiety, heightened by practical insecurities. This is my story.

I left my mum's when I was about 14 to go and live with my dad, then I left my dad's at 15 because of domestic violence. Then I moved in with friends. I actually went there with my pregnant belly but I didn't know yet. I found out I was pregnant when I was about 16 weeks gone, I was 15 years old. I told my mum and she was not impressed. It was all too much. I started having mental breakdowns, no one cared about how I was feeling. I felt like I was losing it. I was mad and agitated all the time. I had no home and was so anxious about where I was going to live and how I was going to cope with being a mum.

The lack of support was my biggest problem, I needed to talk to someone who would listen for like an hour or two, to help me through my first stage of pregnancy. That's the type of help that you need as a young mum and you need as much as you can get.

Finally I was put in contact with a support worker by social services because I was under 18, to help me adjust to being a mum. When Ruby was a few weeks old, my support worker kept encouraging me to go out. She told me about the Young Mums' Group but I didn't want to go because I didn't know anyone and just felt like being at home. When Ruby was a bit older, I wanted to go out more and meet people so tried the Young Mums' Group. It was good to meet other mums my age and talk to them as we were going through similar stuff, I got to know the other parents and so started going regularly. I now try to attend every week and I see a few of the other girls outside of the group too.

The Young Mums' Group is great, we openly talk about things. Nobody's thinking: "Oh she was a bit weird," or whatever, because nobody cares, it's just fun! We talk about everything, Kate (the group facilitator) helps us loads, and we have guests too, like there was a counsellor and a careers advisor. It's great for me but it's good for Ruby too. She's used to being with other people. If she starts crying, one of the other girls will help out and pick her up and bring her to me. Here, I'm not worried about my baby and the people around her, you can never be too sure with babies because your baby really is your world.

When I'm getting the help I need, it's better for my child. Some people may feel embarrassed to ask for it but they need to understand that as a mother, if anything's wrong with you your baby can pick up negative vibes so it's good to find that help early on. I don't want Ruby to grow up as I did. I don't want Ruby to experience domestic violence from her dad, I don't want her to get pregnant at the age of 15. I want her to grow up and be just extremely happy, do you know what I mean?

I believe every mum should get the help they need. Because you don't want your child to grow up negatively affected by your mental health issues. I think loads of mums are embarrassed to ask for help or just don't know where to go, I felt the same way once but don't now. That's why I'm doing anger management counselling. I don't want to be shouting and Ruby copy me, I want to be in a peaceful place. I want to be able to brush it off and think ‘whatever', and carry on with my daily life. It's good to know that I'm getting the help I need because now I can be the best mum. I'm completely confident with my parenting skills now and if there's a problem I deal with it. I want Ruby to have the best childhood ever, because as I see it, the best childhood could determine your future really.

If you have a bad childhood then you might turn elsewhere for love and you might turn out to be the worst person in the world. But if you've always had love, cuddles, someone to talk to, you know, it's great! I know I'm a great mum for my age because my baby's happy, happy happy happy. Like any baby Ruby can be fussy now and then, but the main thing is she's happy. Next I want to go to college, I'm excited that I can do that now and that the Young Mums' Group will be there to help me when I do.

With advice and support from the Young Mums' Group Alexa has attended counselling for anger management and since sharing her story with us has now returned to full time education.

*Names and a few minor details have been changed to protect the identity of '€˜Alexa and Ruby'. Photography has been posed by models.

The Young Mums' Group Alexa and Ruby attend provides emotional and practical support in partnership with a local Children's Centre. The group gives young mums access to a range of support services, including parenting guidance, benefits advice and counselling services. It provides a network of supportive peers who share similar experiences and challenges. This reduces feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem which can lead to depression.

The group is relaxed and informal encouraging open discussion and giving particular attention to topics related to mental health. Activities such as baby yoga are planned in consultation with the group members. Guest speakers, with specialist expertise frequently attend, such as clinical psychologists and family practitioners.