Written by Sue Short | 30th October 2007 | Sunshine Coast Daily
Next time you are sitting with a group of women who have children, look around. At least one in seven will have suffered from post-natal depression (PND) and surprisingly in the 21st century the social stigma of this disease still makes women stoically try to suffer it alone in silence. As a mother of two, Sarah, 29, who didn’t want to be identified for these reasons, said: “I thought being so tired was just normal”. Only diagnosed with PND after her second child, Sarah admitted she probably had it after her first child.
A very private person, Sarah explained attending an eight-week course held by Buderim psychologist Lisa Lindley and discovering she was not alone was what got her through the other side. “Meeting the other girls was very helpful,” she said. “I think we all felt a real connection with each other and we still see each other even though we are all different and our circumstances are different.” Sarah said she began to feel better half way through the eight-week course. “I felt completely better by the end of it,” she said. “You still have the odd bad day but now I know how to deal with it.”
Mother of 15-month-old twin girls and a boy, now four and a half, Kylie Bartholomew has quite a handful on her plate. An emergency nurse, Kylie found it hard to accept she had PND because she was someone who always coped. “I felt like I was losing control of everything around me. I was still able to get up and care for them every day and I had lots of external support but I felt like life was out of control,” she explained. “For me it was ridiculous that I was falling apart.” Kylie agreed that there was a stigma attached to PND in today’s society and it took her a long time to decide to attend Lisa’s support group. “I didn’t want to admit to PND and not many would share it with anyone else,” she said. “There’s still stigma around it… I think it’s all about the expectation versus reality, the expectation that it is all a very happy wonderful time.” Kylie said that women with PND tend to feel they have failed in some way and they are the only ones while everyone else is living the myth that life after baby is rosy. “You see it as your failure,” she said. “In the group we could support each other and it helped to know you could get through to the other side.”
With three children of her own, psychologist Lisa Lindley said she has been working with families for 20 years. “More than feeling emotionally fragile for a few days following the birth – commonly known as the Baby Blues – post-natal depression can last for months if left untreated and the feelings are intense and constant,” she said. “I understand the issues pretty well and have a passion in that area.”She set up the Sunshine Coast Post Natal Support Group on a voluntary basis because she saw a real need on the Sunshine Coast for more support for women suffering with PND.
The group, meets weekly, and also offers an 8-week program aimed at providing women with information about post natal depression and practical ways to reduce its symptoms of depression. It gives women the chance to know they are not alone and receive support and friendship from other women including mothers who have overcome post natal depression.
“The group aims to be as informal as possible with plenty of time for coffee and discussion about the weekly topic. We also look at ways to improve the bond between mother and child, stress management, assertiveness and problem solving,” Lisa said. This month a national plan, beyond blue, was launched to identify depression in women during pregnancy and after the baby’s birth.