Becoming a mother is one of the most rewarding things in the world, right? Well, usually yes, but when you’re in the throes of post-natal depression it might not always seem that way.
Tauranga mum Michelle Hall has experienced post-natal depression (PND) first-hand and, with funding and support from the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation, has set up a free PND support group to let other mums know they’re not alone.
The PHO has been offering an eight-week course for women with postnatal depression or anxiety for several years, however Michelle, who attended this course, could see the benefit in a follow-up group that mums can attend on a casual basis when the need arises.
“After eight weeks it’s not like you don’t have depression any more. Talking to other mums I saw there was a real need in the community. Lots of women were struggling and looking for a sense of belonging.
“With PND, or any sort of depression, you often think you’re the only one it’s happening to. I wanted a place for women to come and be their authentic self and if that meant they were saying ‘I’m overwhelmed all the time and feel like I’m failing at motherhood, and it really sucks’, to be able to say that without judgement.”
Primary mental health coordinator for the WBOP PHO, Sylvia Donaldson, says the group is a great complement to the eight-week course already available as it offers further support to women who have finished the course and find meeting with others regularly beneficial for their wellbeing, or for those who are not able to attend the course, but would benefit from the support of others.
“It is particularly important to ensure that support is available when needed to improve maternal and child wellbeing.”
Michelle says some of the women come to the group “in the depths of their despair” while others who have been coming to the group since it started in April 2018 have come out the other side and are there to share their “wisdom and hope” with others.
“I start the session with a short meditation, but essentially it’s about sharing whatever you want to in that moment. There are all sorts of different, wonderful stories. We might have tears one month and laughter the next.
“By women sharing their experiences, it gives permission for others to do the same. When you speak about what you are doing to support your wellness, it gives other women ideas and ways to integrate things into their lives as well. It’s all about finding the joy in being a mother, which can be difficult when you have depression.”
The support group is informal, with tea/coffee and childcare available, and usually attracts up to six women per session. Michelle is also a mental health support worker and can refer to other support services in the community.
The PND support group is held at The School House in the Historic Village on Seventeenth Avenue from 12.30-2.30pm on the last Monday of each month. The next sessions are on 25 March, 29 April, 27 May, 24 June, 29 July and 26 August. Online options may be available in future for those in rural areas, or women outside of Tauranga.
For more information about the group, or if you have previously experienced PND and would like to support others by attending and sharing your own journey, contact Michelle, phone: 021 541 440 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org