Jess's story: the stresses involved in being a young mum
When Jess had her first child, she found the stigma attached to being a young mother particularly upsetting and stressful:
"When contemporaries hear that you have children, they immediately assign judgment. Oftentimes, they will believe that I have 'wasted my life' and assume I am uneducated – or that having children must have been an ugly mistake."
Stigma is well-known as a significant stressor. Individuals facing stigma are more likely to be isolated and to lack social support. Plus, there's the issue of 'self-stigma', in which individuals hold onto the same beliefs as the people stigmatising them - all of which raises stress levels.
Trying to find work
Establishing a career has also been a challenge for Jess, despite having three A Levels and a law degree. She says:
"It has left me feeling like I am not good enough to function in the working world."
Maintaining a relationship
Continuing a relationship with the father of her children has also been a struggle:
"Sometimes there is a sense of resentment between us because we both feel like the other changed forever when the children came along."
Holding on to a sense of self
Jess says one of her greatest difficulties was the loss of identity that came with being a parent:
"I lost not only who I was but also who I might have become. I do not think it is something you 'get over' but I am working towards finding my new normal."
It can all get on top of you
That's when innovative programmes like the Mental Health Foundation's Young Mums Together make all the difference.
Jess had a two year old and a five-week-old baby when she first came along to a Young Mums Together peer support group. In weekly sessions, she had the chance to try out different activities to aid relaxation, such as mindfulness and breathing techniques; to learn how to recognise the signs of stress and practice coping strategies; and to share her experiences with other young mums.
"Without a moment's hesitation, I can say that this programme surpassed my expectations. Now I don't just accept my status as a young mum but actually enjoy it. It's the difference between surviving and thriving."
We need your help
Research shows that stress can contribute to illnesses such as heart disease and to mental heath problems such as anxiety and depression. With your help, we can continue to tackle mental health problems at their source and enable more people like Jess to thrive.