Meet the team

It’s Ok to ask for help

perinatal mental health support

Wellbeing Peer Support Team

  • Maria Viner

    Chief Executive Officer

  • Rebecca Rice

    Targeted Services & Projects Coordinator

  • Rachel Langford

    Client Care

  • Richa Pandya

    Client Care

  • Kiri Durston

    Client Care

  • Nixie McAllister

    Group Co-Ordinator

  • Sapna Boden

    SEND Peer Support Worker & Administrator

  • Abby Akinyemi

    Peer Support Worker

  • Amy Sutherland

    Peer Support Worker

  • Genevieve Shergold

    Link Peer Support Worker

  • Alice Ritchie

    Peer Support Worker

  • Claire Littlejohn

    Peer Support Worker

  • Joanne West

    Play Support Worker

  • Jacob Kelly

    Dads and Partners Peer Support Worker

  • Justine Rowe

    Financial Services

  • Jessica Cox

    Sessional Art Psychotherapist

  • Helen Jones

    HCPC registered trainee art psychotherapist

  • Xanthe Ivory-Lawrance

    Trainee Counsellor (BACP Student Member)

Maria Viner

Chief Executive Officer

Maria has been a client, volunteer, Trustee and was the Chair of Trustees for 6 years before becoming CEO in June 2018.

Maria had a moderate perinatal illness after the birth of her second son and began to use Mothers for Mothers helpline, groups and counselling service. During her pregnancy with her daughter she became more ill and was severely ill after her birth. Mothers for Mothers continued to support Maria through this until she had fully recovered.

Maria is a member of the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists Women’s Network and the Women’s Voices Panel. She is a member of the RCOG lay faculty and a lay examiner. Maria enjoys her role at the College and fully supports the aim to improve women’s health in the UK and globally. She also sits on the National Maternity and Perinatal Audit Perinatal Mental Health Sprint Audit advisory group.

Maria’s Patient and Public Involvement began in 2006 and she is currently the PPI Lead at the Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement.

Maria is an expert by experience and a Maternal Mental Health Alliance Everyone’s Business Campaign Champion.

In her spare time Maria enjoys walking her dog and landscape art.

Rebecca Rice

Targeted Services & Projects Coordinator

Rebecca comes from a maternal health background having practiced as a midwife and then as an independent birth worker before having her daughter in 2014. Following a difficult period of postnatal depression and associated rage she decided to focus on mental health in motherhood and applied to be a volunteer at Mothers for Mothers, covering the helpline and offering 1-1 visits in the community. Just before the pandemic she became a member of staff in the home visiting team and later became its coordinator. Rebecca is also a shiatsu practitioner and believes in the holistic nature of health, where mind and body interact to create wellbeing or dis-ease. She’s from Southampton so sounds a bit weird.

Rachel Langford

Client Care

Rachel Langford is a mother of 2 and suffered with severe Post-Natal depression after the birth of her second child. Rachel received support from the crisis team and Mothers for Mothers. When Rachel recovered, she began volunteering at Mothers for Mothers and joined the management committee, offering telephone support and setting up the Bedminster group. Rachel started paid employment at Mothers for Mothers in 2004 and ran the peer support groups until 2021. Rachel is our client care representative, taking new referrals, working on the helpline and making support calls. Rachel has been working for Mothers for Mothers for 19 years. Her hobbies are gardening, reading and being outdoors.

Richa Pandya

Client Care

I  have been working with children and families for over 15 years. I have worked  as an Early Years Practitioner, Montessori school Practitioner, Family Support Worker. I have always been passionate about mental well-being. After experiencing perinatal mental health illness my curiosity around pre and perinatal psychology deepened. During my difficult journey I did not know who ask for support or if such support even existed. Having a space where you are heard, supported and your feelings acknowledged would have made my transition to motherhood smoother. I decided to dedicate time to mothers who are experiencing similar difficulties. I strongly believe that sensing, naming and identifying what’s happening inside (mind and body) is the first step towards healing.

During  my free time I enjoy reading (mostly fiction) and going for long walks in the woods.

Kiri Durston

Client Care

Hi, my name is Kiri Durston. I have four children and suffered with Post natal depression after my first child. I first heard about Mothers for Mothers as a child when my own mum volunteered to work for the organisation, occasionally bringing me along to the office. She spoke very highly of the service and so I always had a interest in the resources and support that they provided to mothers. Fast forward to 2021 and, I was refererred by my health visitor due to once again suffering with depression and anxiety after the birth of my fourth child. Using the service proved to be absolutely invaluable to me and I longed to help others, once I had been through my journey, that had had difficulties surrounding parenthood and making adjustments too. I applied to work voluntarily in 2023 on the helpline initially and was eventually offered a position as a Client Care and Group Peer Support Worker, much to my absolute joy. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, tabletop gaming, singing and dance fitness.

Nixie McAllister

Group Co-Ordinator

Hi, my name is Nixie and I am the Group Coordinator at Mothers for Mothers. I facilitate four of our peer support groups across BristoI and South Gloucestershire.

I suffered with severe post-natal anxiety after my daughter was born in 2016 and decided to ring the helpline at Mothers for Mothers when I reached crisis point. I then received support calls from the team and attended the peer support groups. This combined with medication and holistic therapies meant that I was able to recover from my anxiety and enjoy my life/family again.

In 2019 I started to volunteer for Mothers for Mothers and then began my role as a staff member in the Client Care team during 2020. In 2021 I moved into the role of Group Coordinator and love my job as it enables me to support women in the same way that I was supported during the most difficult time of my life.

In my spare time I like to read, draw, dance and spend time with my family and friends.

Sapna Boden

SEND Peer Support Worker & Administrator

Sapna is a mum of 2 and suffered from Perinatal depression and anxiety after the birth of her first child which resurfaced once her second child was born. She valued all the support she received from her weekly Mothers for Mothers group.

Sapna is a qualified SENDCo as well as a mum of children with additional needs so can offer SEND Peer support work for mums on a similar journey as well as educate and inspire conversations about Neurodiversity.

Sapna enjoys gardening, cooking and more recently, DIY/interior design projects thanks to the free upcycling workshops at Ikea!!

Amy Sutherland

Peer Support Worker

Amy is a mother of two and suffered with post-natal illness after the birth of her first child.

Due to her experience of post-natal illness, Amy, went on to train as a Counsellor. It was here that she first came across Mothers for Mothers, working initially on the support line and then as a Trainee Counsellor.  Amy is thrilled to be working with Mothers for Mothers again as a  Peer Support Worker helping Mothers to access support they might not other wise receive.

In her spare time Amy enjoys spending time with family, country walks and playing tennis.

Genevieve Shergold

Link Peer Support Worker

Following a traumatic pregnancy and birth with my first child I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. This was incredibly difficult to accept and I felt so lost and alone in the world. I was referred to a perinatal mental health charity where I got the support I needed and part of that was a peer support group. I learnt to connect with myself, my baby and others and this had a huge impact on rediscovering myself.

Becoming pregnant again 5 years later I was worried I would have a similar experience, however, the second time around I was more prepared and resilient. I was able to be more open about my mental health and support was put in place during my pregnancy which prevented me from having a second episode of post-natal depression.

I am now raising two gorgeous children who are thriving. I’ve learnt that motherhood will have its ups and downs but I am able to be present and know that those difficult periods will pass. Through rediscovering myself I have found that I am able to express myself through my artwork. I mostly enjoy painting but I love any opportunity to be creative.

Alice Ritchie

Peer Support Worker

Alice experienced postnatal depression and anxiety after the birth of her daughter, particularly following her experience of having a child in NICU.

Over the past few years she has focused on training in birth and maternal support work, teaching prenatal education as well as actively supporting births. She has recently been focused on supporting displaced mothers in Bristol.

Alice is an Agatha Christie devotee, enjoys country walks and folk singing

Claire Littlejohn

Peer Support Worker

Claire is a mum of 2 boys and experienced post natal depression after the birth of her second child. Working for many years in Community Development and then Family Support, she has joined the Home Visiting team to help other mums who otherwise may not get any support. To keep her head clear Claire runs, enjoys open water swimming and crochets.

Joanne West

Play Support Worker

Jo is our play support worker and has been a valued member of our team for 16 years. She is a mother of three and suffered with PNI after her third child. Jo was supported by Mothers for Mothers and found it beneficial using several of our services to help her on her journey to wellness. In time, Jo began helping at the groups as a volunteer which later turned into a more permanent position to the play support worker she is today. Jo loves spending time with her family and loves to watch football especially when her children play.

Jacob Kelly

Dads and Partners Peer Support Worker

For me talking openly with others about my thoughts, feelings and emotions really helped me to feel less alone, it also helped me to meet others who had been through similar experiences which really helped smash the stigma and guilt I was feeling as a Dad and Husband.

Jessica Cox

Sessional Art Psychotherapist

I began my journey with mothers for mothers during my Art Psychotherapy training and developed a real passion for the work. I offer a space of empathy and understanding to those who may need some extra support during their parental journey.

My background is based predominantly in schools, giving me insight into the challenges parents and children may face.

In my spare time, I enjoy being in my art studio or listening to live music around the city.

Helen Jones

HCPC registered trainee art psychotherapist

I have experienced some of the challenges of motherhood and I’m aware of the emotional impact this stage of life will have both good and bad aspects. I’m looking forward to meeting clients who are exploring the effects that becoming a Parent is having/ has had on them. I hope to work collaboratively with them to identify the ways they can build on their strengths and navigate this part of the life journey. Outside of my therapeutic training I like climbing hills that look out over the sea and listening to music.

Studying MA arts psychotherapy at the University of South Wales

Xanthe Ivory-Lawrance

Trainee Counsellor (BACP Student Member)

Practitioner with lived experience working in a client centred way. This means being led by the client and what they wish to explore with me on our journey together.

When I’m not at work I’m normally surrounded by flowers or plants.

Our Volunteers

  • sarah

    Sarah Wheeler

  • Charlie

  • Claire

  • Emma

  • Katie

  • Lewis

  • Anna

    Anna Hughes

sarah

Sarah Wheeler

Sarah is a parent of four children and a grandmother. She experienced perinatal mental health issues and understands well how they affected her children. She  would really have valued the support offered by Mothers for Mothers,She enjoyed working in London as a community nurse with children and families in the NHS for over fifteen years , gaining valuable experience in supporting  parents and children from widely diverse backgrounds in different community settings.

Anna

Anna Hughes

Anna is a mum to two lovely girls and, following the birth of her first child, she struggled with her mental health. Eleven years on, she’s feeling very lucky to be a part of such a brilliant charity that offers support to fellow mums who are going through a similarly tough time. When she’s not volunteering as a support call worker at Mothers For Mothers, Anna is training to be a counsellor alongside her job as a copywriter. Running and yoga are slotted in wherever possible.

Our Trustees

  • Natalie

    Chair of Trustees

  • Laura Ward

    Vice Chair

  • Libby Scourse

    Treasurer

  • Kelly Avis-Hay

    Secretary

  • Caroline Scrase

    Dr Caroline Scrase

    Trustee

  • Mel Lloyd

    Mel Lloyd

    Trustee

  • Christy_Burden

    Dr Christy Burden

    Trustee

  • Suzy Stollery

    Trustee

  • Annette Lang

    Trustee

  • Claire Storey

    Trustee

  • Kym Birtwell-Thompson

    Trustee

  • Chandrika Balachandar

    Trustee

  • Mark Williams

    Ambassador

Natalie

Chair of Trustees

Natalie works in the mental health sector within policy and system change for Rethink Mental Illness, and previously worked as a community engagement worker in Bristol for CASS, where she first came into contact with Mothers for Mothers as a key service.

Natalie became a mother in December 2019, and has had lived experience of struggling with her mental health as well as the isolation of having a new baby in a pandemic. She is an advocate for reducing stigma regarding mental illness and accessing services, and also increasing accessibility for everyone to be able to access help when they need it.

Natalie loves getting out in the fresh air with her family, swimming in the sea, and going for cycle rides.

Laura Ward

Vice Chair

Laura has a background in design and over the past 3 years has helped to rebrand and modernise Mothers for Mothers charity literature. She creates contemporary leaflets to promote our services and has co-ordinated the content and designs for the new website. She suffered from anxiety and depression after her first-born son. Laura also works as a volunteer on the helpline.

Libby Scourse

Treasurer

Libby is a Chartered Accountant, with over 20 years of varied experience across the private sector. She is currently working for a national public transport company. She lives in Bristol with her young family, and has lived experience of anxiety during pregnancy, and having given birth during the pandemic. She is very pleased to join the Mothers for Mothers trustee team and to support the amazing work done by the charity.

Kelly Avis-Hay

Secretary

Kelly has worked in Events and Marketing for many years and is currently an Account Manager for a Bristol based events company.

Having worked with many charities over the years, Kelly has gathered vast insight into how incredibly important charities are, especially those focussed on mental health and well-being. She has organised a variety of fund raising events and co-ordinated marketing strategies which have significantly helped organisations to support their members, raise awareness and develop growth.

She’s very much looking forward to working along side Mothers for Mothers and supporting their growth and amazing work.

Caroline Scrase

Dr Caroline Scrase

Trustee

Dr Caroline is a Clinical Psychologist and has worked in the NHS for over 20 years in mental health and learning disability services. She has worked in both inpatient and community services and has a strong interest in working with people and families with autism. Caroline also jointly runs a small specialist company that provides training about mental health and ASD to health and social care professionals. Caroline lives in Bristol and has two children – she benefited hugely from attending mother and baby groups following the birth of both her children. In recent years she has discovered the joys of swimming outside in cold water and has become a keen advocate for its positive impact on wellbeing.

Mel Lloyd

Mel Lloyd

Trustee

Mel Lloyd has been a nurse and midwife in the NHS since 1996 with over 20 years’ experience as a midwife working between delivery suite, community and 5 years as a continuation of care team leader. Mel is currently working on central delivery suite at St Michaels Hospital.

Mel has experienced first-hand the impact poor mental health has for women and their families in both in pregnancy and beyond. Mel has a particular interest in the impact that infertility has on mental health having experienced this first hand. Mel also has interest in PTSD and birth trauma and understands the importance of help and support. Mel has undertaken extended learning in perinatal mental health and hypnobirthing, this has further enabled expansion on how we can have an impact through ante natal education.

Christy_Burden

Dr Christy Burden

Trustee

Dr Christy Burden is a Consultant Obstetrician, Senior Lecturer and Head of the Academic Women’s Health Unit at the University of Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust. Her clinical and research interests are in maternal medicine and improving pregnancy outcomes in high risk pregnancies. She is also the NIHR Clinical Research Network Lead for Reproductive Health and Childbirth in the West of England. She works as the Practical Implementation Lead for the Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement.

Suzy Stollery

Trustee

Suzy was delighted to join the Trustee team in September 2021. An HR Director, Coach, Mentor and Mental Health First Aider she believes in responsible leadership, supporting others to grow and has a passion for mental health and wellbeing. Sincere, honest, intuitive, and straight talking she believes kindness in life goes a long way.

Suzy was diagnosed with PTSD owing to birth trauma and underwent Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy as part of her recovery. She is passionate about the support Mothers for Mothers provides to families (including Dads) in addition to raising awareness and education about perinatal mental health.

Suzy is happiest when walking in nature with her husband, daughter, and their family Whippet.

Annette Lang

Trustee

Annette is a founding member of Mothers for Mothers and suffered Postnatal Illness after the birth of her third child in 1984. She received help from the Mother and Baby unit in Bristol and invaluable support from our charity. Mothers for Mothers was newly established and as Anette recovered she was able to help Mothers for Mothers develop into an organization providing individual support, group sessions, telephone support and helpline with volunteers and support workers. They also provided home visits and counselling services, just as it is today. Annette is very proud to still be a part of Mothers for Mothers and helps with the helpline when required.

Claire Storey

Trustee

Educated to degree level, Claire Storey has spent almost two decades working in maternity and newborn care as a parent advocate, commissioner and researcher following the loss of her first baby in 2004. She has dedicated her time to highlighting the importance of the parental narrative during pregnancy, birth and the neonatal period, including after the death of a baby and to improving equity and quality of care whilst ensuring parents themselves are adequately supported at every stage. Claire has been a co-applicant on a number of prevention, bereavement and perinatal mental health research projects and service development initiatives. She has organised conferences and workshops, delivered training to healthcare providers, and led bereavement and antenatal support groups for recently bereaved parents. Claire has recently been appointed as Director of Bereavement, Community and Parent Voice with the International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA) and Co-Chair to the ISA Bereavement Working Group. She is also the Patient Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) lead and Board member of the Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre in the United Kingdom and Community and Parent Voice lead to the Gates funded Stillbirth Advocacy and Implementation Guide. Claire’s work seeks to raise the voice and participation of women and their families and to strengthen advocacy for healthy pregnancies, neonatal care, bereavement support, good mental health and wellbeing.

Kym Birtwell-Thompson

Trustee

After having post-natal illness, myself in 1995 and having nowhere to go to receive help or support, but luckily having friends who realised that something was amiss and helped massively in my recovery just by being there.

Fast forward a few years and retraining as a counsellor after becoming severely disabled I needed a listening  placement and Mothers for Mothers. I had been refused so many volunteer posts because of my disability and thought this would be the same. I was pleasantly surprised to be told that was not an issue and started on the helpline in 2015 taking every shift I could as I needed 85 hrs to carry on my studies. I then started helping out at Barton hill group in the September of the same year. When the new group started at Staple Hill, I was asked if I would like to volunteer at that group as well especially as I lived the closest, while they looked for a volunteer, they now have to find a new volunteer for that group. It has been an honour helping so many mums on their journey to recovery and seeing them get better and the babies grow up too. After 7 years it was suggested that my skills, I had learnt during my time working with the mums could be very useful on the trustee board and I was invited to apply for the trustee vacancy. I am hoping that the experience I have with working with the Mum’s at ground level will help now with being on the trustee board and I am looking forward to continuing my work with Mothers for Mothers in that capacity. My hobbies include creating new products for my business  to help friends and myself with any ailments they may have. Gardening is still my passion despite it taking much longer now reading and meeting with friends. Working well being at festivals and going away in my van.

Chandrika Balachandar

Trustee

Chandrika retired from her role as a consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in April 2022, after almost 40 years of clinical service, 36 years with the NHS and three and a half years in Gibraltar with the Gibraltar Health Authority. She enjoyed a fulfilling career and had the privilege of providing a high quality service through an integrated clinical-educational strategy to promote excellence in patient care. During her career, she had the opportunity to take on several senior leadership roles at the Trust level both clinically and educationally. Chandrika was also actively involved with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists through their Examination and Assessment committee and had the privilege of chairing one of them. She is an outspoken team player and offers her consolidated skills and commitment to support Mothers for Mothers.

Chandrika is a mother of three grown up children and enjoys time with her grandchildren, gardening and playing golf, and believes that her enthusiasm will make up for her skills on the golf course. She is honoured to be elected as a Trustee for Mothers for Mothers from January 2024.

Mark Williams

Ambassador

Mark is a Mothers for Mothers Ambassador and co-facilitates our Dads and Partners session on the last Thursday of the month. He is a Keynote Speaker, Published Author and International campaigner. In 2004 he experienced anxiety and depression, suffering in silence for years until he entered community mental health services.

Mark has worked in various areas of mental health and youth work after changing his career in 2006 after years in sales and market research.

He founded International Fathers Mental Health Day and #Howareyoudad campaign to make sure all parents are having support for the whole family. Mark has spoken on television and radio stations around the world while working with Dr Jane Hanley who have both published articles on Fathers ( Paternal) Mental Health together.

Mark started the campaign to bring back the mother and baby unit in UK after a seven year absence. Mark was awarded Inspirational Father of the year and local hero at the Pride of Britain Awards in 2012 even invited to meet The Royal Family on World Mental Health Day also awarded the Point Of light Award by the Prime Minister in 2019.

In 2020 published a report called “Why Dads Matter” on his finding for the previous years and has successfully helped change policies and organizations to include fathers in their services.

Phone Helpline

0117 9359366