I recently read an article on the TVNZ website about the state of perinatall mental health in NZ and some of the experiences of women and families, and it broke my heart...
Here are some of the many things that jumped out to me as I read the article...
“The doctor just didn’t know what to do with me”.
"Our rate of maternal suicide is seven times that of the United Kingdom."
"Māori mothers are especially vulnerable to suicide and mental health issues because of the disproportionate poverty they face. You watch in the media the shame and blame culture that’s around. I think many Māori are frightened to seek help."
“I had to get to the point where I was having really bad thoughts before anyone would help me.”
“I clearly remember the doctor looking at me and saying ‘OK, well, this is a walk-in clinic and I don’t have the time to go through all of this with you ... what do you want me to do?’”
"A Maternal Care Action Group NZ survey of 226 mothers with perinatal disorders revealed 43% felt their GPs were unhelpful or average. Mothers said their doctors didn’t always have the time to delve into mental health issues, didn’t know what to do, or appeared uninterested."
“There’s so much stigma around these illnesses that women have to be quite competent to get the help that they need, like going five times to the GP in Sarah’s case. Five times!"
"The implicit message they got is one echoed by medical experts in the field: unless you’re incredibly sick, we don’t have the resources to help you."
“I left feeling worse than I did going in - they told me there wasn’t going to be any available help until about three months later. That really shattered my hope of feeling better. I was distraught.”
"Having worked in the public health system for more than 20 years, she says it is only resourced to deal with the very top end of severity."
“If people only understood the outcomes for babies when you have a mother who is depressed or anxious. It’s not just about the mother suffering - which is bad enough - it’s about outcomes for babies.”
"Experts have called the effect of perinatal disorders on children “a major public health issue”.
Decades of research have shown the importance of early attachment between a baby and its primary caregiver - usually its mother. It affects a baby’s physical, mental and emotional health and can persist into adulthood."
"The non-existent help for fathers is a major issue, too, says Flynn.“I think it should just be called perinatal mental health, not maternal mental health. We need to be treating and supporting both parents."
This isn't ok anywhere in the world, but here, in New Zealand how can we let this happen. How can we let our peers suffer and put their children at risk because our medical sector either isn't given the support and resources needed to provide appropriate assistance, or we have people providing care who literally just don't care.
I myself have a GP that I feel like just doesn't really care. Her answer is to put me on drugs and that will take care of it, nevermind the underlying causes or the side effects of the drugs.
I think we really need to take a hard look at ourselves and what is going on, and continue to support some of the amazing work that is happening to create change, provide support and remove the stigmas that stop so many from getting the help they need and should have a right to.