Charity inspiration interview - Birth Trauma Association
We spoke to Lucy Jolin from the Birth Trauma Association (BTA) this week to get an insight into this fantastic charity, its aims and how it works.
The BTA, run entirely by volunteers, was set up to support women suffering Postnatal Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following childbirth. It's the only organisation in the UK to deal solely and specifically with this widespread, but often taboo, issue. For such a small organisation, they've made a big impact. Here, Lucy gives us further information about the BTA, the issues it faces and, more importantly, how it overcomes them.
When and how did the dream of setting up this organisation become a reality?
The BTA has actually just celebrated its 10th anniversary. It was founded in 2004 by two inspiring women – Debbie Sayers and Maureen Treadwell. They recognised that birth trauma is a huge problem and wanted to do something about it.
What are the main drivers behind the concept?
There are three main aims behind the BTA. Firstly, to act as a support service. This is, and always has been, our main driver. We want women (and men – they can be affected by birth trauma too after seeing their partner in such a bad way) to know they have somewhere to go and people to turn to for support and advice. Secondly, we want to ensure that birth trauma and both ante- and post-natal mental health are high on the agenda for policymakers, including the Department of Health, the Royal Colleges and the NHS. And thirdly, we want to raise awareness of PTSD following childbirth among people who might be affected, or who are already affected. We do this by appearing on as many TV and radio shows as physically possible – Today, BBC News, Women's Hour, for example – as well as providing case studies for women's magazines etc. But we also have a very successful Facebook group and Twitter feed, and many women have also blogged about their birth experiences. Social media is becoming a very important part of the mix.
How many of you run the BTA?
There are actually only four of us currently on the management committee. We are all volunteers – nobody gets paid a penny and we all have jobs and kids. I joined back in 2007 after I experienced a traumatic birth and got in touch with the BTA. We also have a couple of extremely dedicated volunteers who carry out activities such as sending leaflets and answering support lines. Plus, there are a lot of amazing people who participate in fundraising activities for the BTA on an ad hoc basis. We can't thank them enough for what they do – from marathons to coffee mornings. We receive no funding whatsoever from the government, and while our costs are low we do need money in order to pay for our website costs, travel expenses, postage etc.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Our main challenge is that we feel we can never do enough. For example, when there are big news stories in the media regarding birth trauma, we will receive hundreds of calls a day from the press wanting to talk with us. But as volunteers – and mothers ourselves – that can be very hard. We are regularly asked if we can set up local support groups. There's nothing we'd like more. But, at the moment, we simply don't have the funds or the capacity.
How do you try to overcome this challenge?
Ultimately, we have to be creative and not commit ourselves to things we can't do. We use free tools such as Twitter and Facebook. These social media platforms have helped transform our organisation – they are free to use, they don't take up a lot of time, but they reach a huge amount of people. Currently, we have over 2,500 members on Facebook and over 600 followers on Twitter. Twitter is great for raising awareness and connecting with other organisations.
Is there any advice you could give to other charities?
I'd always advise to keep your primary focus in mind. For us, that's support. Running an organisation is a constant balancing act. The trick is to work with what you have, don't be over ambitious, don't get carried away and be creative.
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