Time to open up about ma­ter­nal men­tal health

Moth­ers get to­gether to raise aware­ness of the dan­gers of post­par­tum de­pres­sion

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY + REGION - PAMELA COWAN

It’s been 11 years since the birth of her daugh­ter, but Elita Pater­son vividly re­calls strug­gling with fright­en­ing fits of rage, de­spair and anx­i­ety at what should have been a happy time.

“I just felt out of con­trol,” Pater­son said. “I just didn’t feel as though I had enough sup­ports or peo­ple un­der­stand­ing.”

The first-time mother felt a loom­ing sense of fail­ure. In­tense anx­i­ety, para­noia, anger and em­bar­rass­ment fol­lowed. Many times af­ter Ella’s birth in 2006, Pater­son felt dan­ger­ously close to the edge.

For two years she suf­fered with post­par­tum anx­i­ety un­til she met Ta­nia Bird and Carla O’Reilly, two moms who ex­pe­ri­enced post­par­tum psy­chosis. The three women wrote a book, The Smil­ing Mask: Truths about Post­par­tum De­pres­sion and Par­ent­hood.

“Once we started writ­ing, there was a huge learn­ing curve about mood and anx­i­ety disor­ders — that’s what we need to call them. We can’t call them post­par­tum de­pres­sion any more be­cause it’s so much more than de­pres­sion,” Pater­son said. “It’s also (ob­ses­sive com­pul­sive dis­or­der) and psy­chosis.”

Ma­ter­nal men­tal health ser­vices have im­proved in the prov­ince in the past decade, but Pater­son is pas­sion­ate about bring­ing about more progress.

She’s the pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Saskatchewan Ma­ter­nal Men­tal Health Im­ple­men­ta­tion Com­mit­tee, which is chaired by An­gela Bowen — a pro­fes­sor with the Col­lege of Nurs­ing at the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan — and in­cludes med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als from the prov­ince’s health re­gions.

“We do work with the gov­ern­ment and there has been progress in tak­ing care of our moms, but our main fo­cus was al­ways to have pre­na­tal screen­ing for de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety for our preg­nant moms,” Pater­son said.

Al­most two years ago, she be­gan a pe­ti­tion ask­ing the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to add a screen­ing tool called the Ed­in­burgh Post­na­tal De­pres­sion Scale (PDS) and Care Guide to the pro­vin­cial pre­na­tal check­list so doc­tors and ob­ste­tri­cians can iden­tify preg­nant women at risk of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety by ask­ing them 10 ques­tions.

“It hasn’t come to be yet,” Pater­son said.

Cur­rently, more than 1,600 sup­port­ers have signed the pe­ti­tion.

Pater­son says there’s not enough ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness about ma­ter­nal men­tal health, so her lat­est ven­ture is or­ga­niz­ing a fundrais­ing din­ner on Nov. 2. Pro­ceeds will go to­ward a ma­ter­nal men­tal health con­fer­ence to be held in Regina in May.

The con­fer­ence will be open to ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity — health-care providers, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, ed­u­ca­tors, stu­dents, moth­ers, part­ners, fam­ily and friends.

Pater­son hopes the con­fer­ence will raise aware­ness about ma­ter­nal well­ness. She wants peo­ple talk­ing about the next steps in ban­ish­ing the stigma of men­tal health is­sues in moth­ers dur­ing preg­nancy and post­par­tum, one year af­ter the baby is born.

Over the sum­mer, she and Co­ralie Voth mused about go­ing out for din­ner at a Regina restau­rant where they could lis­ten to live mu­sic. Be­fore long, the idea of a fundrais­ing din­ner was born.

“Co­ralie said, ‘Why don’t we do it for the women you are ad­vo­cat­ing for, Elita?’ I just thought that was pretty amaz­ing,” Pater­son said.

Voth, owner of Viva Op­ti­cal, is one of the spon­sors for the fundrais­ing din­ner.

“Men­tal health is­sues are re­ally im­por­tant,” she said. “Elita has talked about ma­ter­nal men­tal health and that’s some­thing that isn’t re­ally talked about, but it’s there ... You hear about young women strug­gling and I can’t imag­ine feel­ing that alone. You need some­one to help you through it.”

With the as­sis­tance of Basilis and Dena Har­i­tos and Niki Char­i­tou of Luna Kitchen & Bar, the four-course din­ner will be held at the Quance Street restau­rant, with home­grown jazz crooner Drew Tofin and his four-piece band pro­vid­ing live en­ter­tain­ment.

MICHAEL BELL

Elita Pater­son, left, and Co­ralie Voth are plan­ning a fundrais­ing din­ner in Novem­ber for a con­fer­ence on ma­ter­nal men­tal health.

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