Support network for mums in need of aid

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 12:58 13/03/2014

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An unfunded service which helps dozens of Nelson mothers each month is in need of help itself.

Gwen Daly Dover, co-ordinator for Nelson's Post-Natal Depression Support Network, said yesterday that the network had struggled ever since it was forced to move out of its former premises at 50 Halifax St when the building was judged earthquake prone.

It was charged "marginal" rent at the Halifax St building. This and other factors had helped the network run for 25 years without government funding. It survived on donations from the Canterbury Community Trust, and is staffed largely by volunteers.

It is now housed on Hardy St at the Centre for Human Potential. Mrs Daly Dover said the landlord, a clinical neurologist, had generously allowed the centre to share his rooms for counselling purposes, but the rent was four times what they used to pay.

The post-natal depression network is staffed by four qualified volunteer counsellors, plus two graduate counsellors on clinical placement and three trainees.

A paid co-ordinator and administrative staff member organise their movements as they visit clients at home when the women cannot face leaving the house.

The network can also arrange group therapy and visits by support workers, and runs the "Good Grief I'm a Mum" group.

"At any one time, we are supporting up to 25 mums," Mrs Daly Dover said.

It takes referrals from doctors, midwives, Family Start, Plunket and even the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board when public resources are stretched. It treated 84 clients in 2012, and normally allows clients 10 visits, although Mrs Daly Dover said more were available if necessary.

"These women wouldn't have anywhere to go, or they would certainly be a huge drain on the public health system if they were in it."

Mrs Daly Dover said the network took care of mothers from all backgrounds, but among those who frequently showed up were professional women used to coping with "high-powered" jobs. She said these women often developed anxiety when they felt they lacked the requisite skills for motherhood.

She said it took "three or four seconds" to help these mothers see that they did know enough to get by, but mothers who had to address issues from their own childhood sometimes took longer to treat.

Other common stressors included a lack of sleep, financial struggles, a lack of support networks - "and everybody else looking as if they can do it, which is not true".

National figures released by the Postnatal Depression Family/Whanau New Zealand Trust say 10 to 15 per cent of women suffer from depression after having a baby, and 15 to 20 per cent suffer from anxiety during and after pregnancy.

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Mrs Daly Dover said the difference between clients at their first visit and their last was "amazing", although she said the stigma against depression and mental illness was such that most clients preferred not to "wave flags" and celebrate their recovery in public.

"We've got fantastic people that give their services freely and we know we get good results because we continue to get referrals."

The network has spoken with the NMDHB in January about running a proposed clinic for mothers, with Mr Daly Dover saying it was capable of operating the service very cost-effectively.

- Nelson

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