It took Krista Holden five months to realize that she had postpartum depression (PPD). She was having trouble finding the motivation to get anything done and she could barely take care of herself, let alone her newborn son, Elliot.
“Looking back, I probably struggled right from Day 1,” Holden said. “Our first son died shortly after he was born, so I was just so anxious because my experience as a parent was that my child would die. I was always anxious and worried that something would happen to Elliot and my anxiety and depression just became best friends.”
Unable to find suitable PPD resources at home, Holden and her husband would make the drive to Saskatoon once a week to take part in a support group. She doesn’t want other mothers to go through the same thing.
In the summer of 2014, Holden was approached by the Lloydminster and Area Early Years Coalition to join the new maternal mental health steering committee. It was an opportunity for her to relate her experiences with PPD to help create a new community resource book. On May 7, at a ceremony at Prairie North Plaza, Mothers First: A Resource for Coping After Pregnancy, was officially launched. With Mayor Rob Saunders in attendance to proclaim May 7 Maternal Mental Health Day, it was a powerful moment for Holden.
“There probably aren’t any words to describe how this feels for our family,” she said after the presentation. “It’s pretty amazing for it to have gone from a conversation and (then) blossomed into this amazing project and initiative for our community.”
Mothers First aims to help parents identify and cope with the stresses and challenges that can arise from having a child and encourage communications and mental well-being. Sherri Husch Foote, executive director of Midwest Family Connections and chair of the maternal mental health initiative steering committee, says she hopes the project will help provide timely access to resources and validate PPD as a health issue.
“Having resources that support early identification, support self-care and support connection to community resources is really vital for the mom, the family and critically for the child,” she said. “Mothers’ mental health matters to the development of strong children and healthy communities and it really is a deep and fundamental issue. In addressing the stigma we’re ensuring that maternal mental health is seen as simply one of the facets of parenting and one of the things that we really need to be aware of and supporting.”
The booklet will be distributed though the community, from recreational facilities to doctors’ offices, and a series of webinars is being offered for people to learn about living with and addressing PPD. Holden says she is humbled by parents who thank her for coming forward and sharing her story.
“For me it was so empowering and freeing for me to be able to say that I have been struggling,” she said. “For so long I felt like I was living a double life because people would say, ‘How are you doing?’ and I would say, ‘Oh, I’m good, I’m good,’ but deep down inside I was falling apart. I hope that this is the start of something fantastic for our community.”