A Basildon mum who suffered postnatal depression is using her own story to help others as part of a countywide initiative to tackle social isolation.
She said: “It took five years to fall pregnant with Abi and when I finally did I think it just caused me to place this really high level of pressure on myself.
“It was constant. Should I be worrying about this? Was I doing this right?
“In the end it was quite bad, to the point I suffered with agoraphobia. My close friends would have to stand at the front door with me as that would be as far as I would go.
“I’d lost all my self-esteem and confidence and, like most new mums, just felt in way above my head.”
Jacqui eventually overcame the depression through the Community Builder initiative and is now is using her experiences to help others in her role as a community organiser.
The scheme comes as a result of collaboration between partners on the Essex Partnership Board, including Essex County Council, Basildon Council and Healthy Living Solutions.
It was launched in September 2013 and aims to tackle issues such as social isolation, offering guidance to existing local clubs, supporting the establishment of new community groups and helping voluntary organisations access greater opportunities.
New mums are one of the groups in Essex that have been identified as at risk of social isolation and Jacqui is delighted to be able to help people in her area.
She said: “I think that by helping others it makes me feel like I belong, and I have my place to sit in the community.
“I hear all of these different stories, and we all have our own story, journey and struggles.
“Doing this job I really fought my demons. I had to push on, no backing out, this was my job and I accepted the challenge.”
She added: “I help mums with an action plan of how and where they will go from their current situation.
“They help me too, as I get to pick up a mixture of tips and tricks that they themselves apply to parenting.”
Sue Bayles, Director at Healthy Living Solutions, said: “There’s a real community spirit in Essex but sometimes people do not know how to go about investing in it.
“It’s about helping them find something that triggers their imagination and that they feel personally connected to. Then once they are involved, they are flying.”
Cllr Anne Brown, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate and Communities, said: “Empowering and strengthening Essex communities remains a key priority for us and our partners.
“People like Jacqui have a lot to offer and we are keen to ensure our residents can benefit from their experience and expertise.
“Schemes like this that develop and improve connections within communities, are an excellent way of helping us identify and solve local problems.
“Encouraging people to play a greater role in the places they live is vital in creating strong and resilient communities.”
Jacqui’s story and the other films in the Strengthening Communities series can be watched by visiting Essex County Council’s YouTube channel.