Play group tackles baby blues
have nowhere to go, pointing out that all Australians have access to a GP and are entitled to psychological treatment.
She also warns that support groups are not always the right answer for PND sufferers, and that not all groups provided evidenced-based treatment. She says individuals need to be assessed before joining a group, to ensure group therapy is appropriate.
But Hughes says the feedback from her service, which is open not only to mums, but mums-to-be, dads, foster parents and adopted parents, has been positive.
She says the supported-playgroup format also makes it easier for women to seek help without the barrier of finding someone to look after their child: ‘‘ With the children taken care of, they can switch off for a bit and actually address some of the issues that have been coming up for them and for their relationship, and for the relationship with their child’’.
She says it is different to a mothers’ group, which could be intimidating for women suffering from PND.
‘‘ If you’re not feeling very confident as a parent, and you’re not coping incredibly well, going to a mothers’ group can sometimes be a little competitive,’’ she said.
‘‘ What we offer is a really non-judgmental, supporting environment. As a therapist, I’m facilitating the discussion, so if it leads towards that, I can reel it back in.’’
Having a male counsellor on hand makes the environment welcoming for men, too. ‘‘ It can be even more difficult for them, because the focus is so often on the women.’’
Last year, Hughes’s service was provided free of charge, but this year participants will pay a nominal fee to help with running costs. The group runs for two hours every Friday during the school term at the Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre in Sydney’s north, which has donated the space.
‘‘ One of the key things for me is keeping this as a low-cost service, because families have often gone down to one income and don’t have extra money on-hand,’’ Hughes said.
She hopes to roll out similar services throughout the greater Sydney area. ‘‘ My plan is to develop Kirribilli as a best-practice model for NSW.’’
But at this point, her resources are limited — she has been paying for leaflets and posters from her own pocket. ‘‘ I’m in the process of approaching local government and the Department of Health for funding to continue. At this point in time, it’s all voluntary . . . which is fine, and we’re doing it because we’re passionate about it.
‘‘ However, goodwill only goes so far.’’
Seeking best practice: Melissa Hughes and Paul Grima at Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre