Critically acclaimed actor Cush Jumbo visited BLG Mind in November to meet Chief Executive Ben Taylor and staff, volunteers and participants from Mindful Mums and Being Dad, our wellbeing services for expectant and new parents.
Cush, who is currently starring in the Young Vic’s production of Hamlet, learned about the work of the services and shared her own personal experiences of mental health and motherhood.
At the time she gave birth to her son, the actor was living in New York and starring as lawyer Lucca Quinn in the Emmy award-winning CBS drama ‘The Good Fight’, which meant a gruelling filming schedule.
Cush said she would have loved to have attended a wellbeing group similar to Mindful Mums in New York, adding: “It would have been the highlight of my week, every week.”
Mindful Mums is BLG Mind’s mental health support programme for pregnant women and new mothers. It offers five-week long wellbeing courses and a befriending service, both of which are run by volunteers with their own experience of managing mental health through this period of life. The groups are built on honesty and meaningful interactions where women can chat about the highs and lows of motherhood without fear of being judged.
Mindful Mums and Being Dad Project Coordinator Karen Taylor explained how the programme encourages women to freely express their feelings about becoming a mother.
She said: “Mindful Mums isn’t about singing nursery rhymes or competitive parenting. It’s about women supporting each other, sharing the highs and lows of becoming a mum and not having to pretend everything is perfect.
“The look of relief on women’s faces when they join the group is palpable.”
Being Dad facilitator Nev Walters spoke about the important role the service played in encouraging men to talk about issues.
He said: “It’s a debilitating idea that you have to be the man with a plan and know what’s going on.
“The Being Dad group is changing this bit by bit. The best thing is that if someone’s a bit hesitant initially, once they’ve joined the group and realise they’re not going to be judged, they don’t stop talking.”
Chief Executive Ben Taylor added: “People can come to Mindful Mums or Being Dad if they’re struggling with their mental health, but also if they’re not struggling. They’re open to all new parents, because we can all do with looking after our wellbeing during that period of change.”
Other participants at the event offered their perspectives on what the groups meant to them.
Leeanne, who has been volunteering for Mindful Mums for two years after initially joining as a participant, said: “Getting involved was the best thing I ever did and a huge turning point for my mental health. When I started coming along, I realised everything I was feeling was normal. Even though it’s called Mindful Mums, it’s not about sitting there meditating. We talk about our bodies, what makes us sad, angry. We share common feelings.”
Another former volunteer, Selina, said: “I was encouraged to join the group to share my story, but I got such a lot back in return I just had to start volunteering.”
Jessica, a new volunteer, added: “I just want to be in a space where people are honest; a lot of play groups didn’t cut it for me.”
Cush told the group: “It’s amazing what you do. Mindful Mums is like rock and roll NCT. You make your own rules, which is much more in-line with being a parent: no one gets a degree in Mum or Dad; we’re all just making it up but are expected to know everything.”
The actor was similarly enamoured of the Being Dad service. She said it was something her own father, who was a stay-at-home dad to Cush and her five siblings while her mother worked, would have been grateful for.
Cush revealed she is keen to imbue son Max with the positive approach to mental health she has developed through her own experiences. “If there’s one thing I’d like to give him, it’s a healthy relationship with mental health,” she said.
“He may not always feel OK, but I want him to talk about it rather than hiding things. It’s such an important skill. If your mental health is solid, you can pretty much survive anything.”