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Menopause & Me: the first year

This week, Suffolk Libraries marked one year since launching its Menopause & Me project.

Menopause & Me was launched in March 2023 with funding from the Department for Health and Social Care.

Suffolk Libraries runs the project in partnership with Suffolk Mind and over the past year has developed a new range of support, guidance and resources to help people in Suffolk experiencing the menopause and perimenopause. New support groups have also been launched in some libraries and courses offered to local employers and those affected by menopause.

The one year anniversary of the launch of the project is being marked with a special celebration event in Ipswich on Wednesday 6 March with a panel discussion. The aim is not only to highlight what has been achieved so far but to raise awareness of the project and the support on offer from Suffolk Libraries and Suffolk Mind.

Diane Danzebrink, Nicole Smith, Bethany Fisher, and Gina Long.
(L-R): Diane Danzebrink, Nicole Smith, Bethany Fisher, and Gina Long.

Some of the achievements from Menopause & Me:

Six M-Powered Groups have been launched across the county – in Stowmarket, Kesgrave, Gainsborough, Chantry, Hadleigh and Newmarket. These are social groups for anyone to come along to and share their experiences of the menopause and find support, encouragement and understanding from others.

Suffolk Mind have delivered 12 six-week courses to over 120 people with lived experience of the menopause with 100 people on a waiting list for future courses in 2024.

Suffolk Mind have also successfully delivered six courses to help employers provide more support for employees affected by the menopause

62 local employers have signed Suffolk Libraries' menopause pledge and 47 have taken part in the training courses

A dedicated library of resources has been developed and added to the Suffolk Libraries website to help both employers and people with lived experience by raising awareness and helping people manage symptoms associated with the menopause. This includes a brand new ‘Menopause and the Law’ guide to help any employers worried about the implication of the new guidance from The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) about their legal obligations.

The Menopause & Me webpages on the Suffolk Libraries website have been viewed 10,000 times.

A series of blogs has been created and shared to share the stories of those experiencing or who have been impacted by the menopause. These include Suffolk Libraries staff and women’s health physiotherapists and cover all kinds of topics from chemical menopause, to HRT or not to HRT, and queer menopause.

Suffolk Libraries is also working with ACE Anglia to develop a film specifically aimed at supporting people with autism and learning disabilities to understand the Menopause.

Some comments from those involved in the project:

Bethany Fisher, Menopause & Me Lead for Suffolk Libraries, said:

“We’re delighted to be marking the first year of running this groundbreaking new project and more importantly so pleased we’ve been able to help women across Suffolk affected by the menopause, whether that’s through our support groups and courses or via the work with local businesses to help them do more for their staff.

"We’re very pleased to have been working with Suffolk Mind and would like to thank them and the many other individuals and organisations for showing such much enthusiasm for Menopause & Me.”

Corrina Hanley, Community Services Manager at Suffolk Mind, said:

“Suffolk Mind were delighted to partner with Suffolk Libraries as awareness of the menopause is rising and with it, the opportunity to support local people. Through our courses, we use the Emotional Needs and Resources approach to support people’s mental health with practical skills and knowledge to help understand and better able to manage symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause.

“More employers are raising awareness of menopause as an issue that can affect staff wellbeing. Therefore, Suffolk employers receiving this training is a very positive step to ensuring workplaces are meeting their team’s needs and managers feel able to support staff through menopause.”

Gina Long, patron of Suffolk Libraries, said:

“As a proud patron of Suffolk Libraries, I have been honoured to support the Menopause and Me programme over the past year. Suffolk Libraries aim is not only to share insights but also to promote understanding and inclusivity for all. Through open dialogue and education, and bringing together diverse perspectives, we aspire to break barriers and empower individuals from all backgrounds to navigate the menopause journey with confidence and support.”

Diane Danzebrink, Founder Director of the organisation and website Menopause Support will be taking part in a panel discussion at the event to mark the anniversary of the project launching. She said:

“The key to ensuring greater understanding of menopause is making education and information available to everyone. The initiatives that the team at Suffolk Libraries, supported by funding from the DHSC, continue to deliver to the public and to small and medium businesses are vital. The information and education that is being delivered ensures that those directly affected can make informed decisions for themselves and those in supporting roles feel better equipped to support friends, family and colleagues.”

Michelle Souter, Christies Care Quality and Safeguarding Manager, whose organisation has taken the Menopause and Me employer training and signed Suffolk Libraries menopause pledge, said:

“We are proud to say that Christies has signed the Menopause & Me Employer’s Pledge, to show our dedication to supporting people going through the menopause. We are pleased to be providing training to all our office team, to be able to assist in these conversations. We have put together our commitment to you to show how we will support our staff.“

Jen Evans, is someone with lived experience of the menopause and who also volunteers to run one of Suffolk Libraries’ support groups:

“I see Suffolk Libraries Menopause & Me project to be a real game changer for women in the county who have so many questions about this transitional stage and feel like they’ve nowhere to turn. We have baby and toddler groups for when we have children and asking questions; now we need a midlife group for finding out whether it’s normal to leave your car keys in the sugar bowl.

"The group I run (with the help of Maggie, the Library Manager) is at Kesgrave Library which sits in the middle of one of the largest housing estates in the UK. I am a very typical Kesgrave resident with a house, two cars and two adult children. I am surrounded by people just like me and know just how important these groups have been to bring people together.

"No matter if we have two people come along or 12, the discussions are often lively and fun, without any one single person judging or leading. Most importantly, no question is a silly question and although we might not know the answer, we can have a really good chat about it to learn.”

Hannah Taylor, Business Support at local employers Kingsfleet, said:

“As a business, we value our team enormously. We recognise that the challenges of life can impact work life; we want to increase our understanding of these challenges so that we can best support our team. So, when we heard about the Menopause Pledge, we were really keen to be a part of it.

“Menopause is an issue which not only may directly affect members of our team, but also indirectly impacts all of us and our community. It made so much sense to sign up, become better informed and link up with other like-minded businesses. I thoroughly enjoyed the training - it really was an excellent session which was so well led, really engaging and generally fascinating! The process of putting together a Menopause Policy and Action Plan after that, with the support of the templates, felt really straightforward and worthwhile. I would recommend joining in with this excellent initiative.”

Lisa Smith, Operations Manager at Pier, said:

“The Suffolk Mind Menopause & Me training was extremely helpful in terms of linking the challenges that our team may face during menopause back to the Emotional Needs & Resources model that we already use in our mental health support here at Pier. We have already been able to deliver an introductory session online to our team, and will continue to lead more discussions as we learn more from the resources available to us via this invaluable project.”

Further feedback from people who have taken the Menopause & Me courses

Participants on the menopause course said:

• It was “Amazing”, “life changing” and “profound”

• The course has been “valuable and impactful in educating women about the menopause and the transitions”

• “The course has given me the confidence to go out and find a menopause café.”

Feedback from local companies on the employer courses:

• “Since the training, we have revised inductions for new staff to include the menopause guidance the organisation has.”

• Participants expressed they feel “more confident engaging others around menopause activities.”

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