Lloydminster mom Krista Holden, who suffers from Postpartum Depression years after the birth of her son Elliot in 2013, helped to found local support from conversations with Midwest Family Connections that set up a Maternal Mental Health Initiative that is extending to entire families. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO
Midwest Family Connections is hoping to expand the community scope of its Maternal Mental Health Initiative (MMHI) with year-round corporate support.
Home Hardware is launching a My Mom Matters campaign in May for kids to take a plant home with a sign that says, My Mom Matters.
“It’s an opportunity for us to have a community conversation,” said Krista Holden, who attends a weekly group called Mothers First for new moms and women like her experiencing various degrees of Postpartum Depression.
Holden teamed up with Sherri Husch-Foote, executive director of Midwest Family Connections to provide an update of MMHI to the Monday meeting of the Rotary Club of Lloydminster.
They are looking for 11 more community partners to generate a year-long awareness campaign.
“I think in order to combat maternal mental health, but also to keep having this conversation about depression, we need to make a difference at the community level,” said Holden.
She is one of more than 50 women who have participated in the Mothers First discussion sessions.
Midwest is also experiencing a significant increase in the number of referrals for home-based services for families affected by Postpartum Depression.
Plans are afoot to engage fathers in follow-up sessions to Mothers First.
“While the focus has been on mothers, fathers are also impacted significantly,” said Husch-Foote.
“We know that moms and dads impact the development of their children—but how do we also ensure that there is a focus on fathers in supports.”
A perinatal mental health symposium in Calgary in May will involve local health professions who will discuss how to use the Edinborough Postnatal Depression Scale screening to determine the supports that dads need.
“We want to continue the conversation about maternal mental health, but we also want to further the conversations that it’s a community issue – it’s not just a mothers’ issue,” said Holden.
“We also want to make people aware that it also impacts the fathers and our children—at a community level there is so much more we can do.”
Holden said when her son Elliot was born she and her husband Kristian knew something was wrong but it took them 14 months to get her help in Saskatoon with no local resources available.
“My husband drove me to Saskatoon once a week for about nine months so I could participant in a maternal wellness program including a support group and access to professions,” she said.
“My symptoms were anxiety and I was very fearful that something would happen to me or to my family.”
She said she wasn’t able to take care of herself and it affected her ability to care for her son and family.
She hasn’t fully recovered from the depression that followed the birth of Elliot in 2013.
“I like feel like a bit of an empty shell,” she told Rotary, noting she missed the first two years of Elliot’s growth.
“I have struggled with depression.”
Locally, support was created after Holden shared what was going on with herself and her family with Husch-Foote and Midwest Family Connection during a meeting in 2014.
“Some strong community leaders decided to create some support,” Holden said.
The MMHI was spearheaded by Midwest Family Connections to expand resources and services for mothers at risk and families affected by Postpartum Depression.
“We were really concerned that we needed to not only offer a group for support, but we really needed to look at the continuum of care in the community and why it was taking families as long as it had been to be identified and connected to resources,” said Husch-Foote.
She said Midwest Family Connections knew they could offer a group to parallel what the Holden family was able to access in Saskatoon.
“We’ve been able to train professionals and para professionals,” said Husch-Foote in her progress report at Rotary.
Midwest has also created a care pathway for physicians and public health nurses to identify families with Postpartum Depression symptoms and what resources are available to help them.
They have also created a mothers resource package toolkit and provided toolkit training this month.
The toolkit helps mothers identify and describe how they are feeling.
The information empowers the entire family to reach out for support through MMHI.
“It’s bringing people together in the community to have conversations about why mother’s mental help matters and what we are as an entire community can do to provide support,” said Husch-Foote.
Funding for the overall MMHI strategy comes from various sources including Lloydminster Family and Community Support Services, the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation, the Government of Alberta and the United Way Lloydminster and District.
Shoppers Drug Mart funded the launch of Mothers First with a $10,000 donation.