We can do womanhood a great service by starting conversations on maternal mental health, says one Donegal counsellor.
Ardara’s Debbie Kremer is the Donegal counsellor for Nurture Health, a counselling and training service for women and partners dealing with conception, pregnancy and childbirth issues.
This World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day, Debbie says that simply asking a new mum how she is doing can be an important step.
As many as 1 in 5 new mothers experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth.
Talking about mental health and women’s experiences can break down barriers to treatment and recovery, Debbie says: “There are women I speak to who say they feel so alone and they don’t even what to say it to their partner.
“I am always keen to make sure that someone at home who might be struggling knows they can pick up the phone and someone will be there for them.”
Debbie is based between Letterkenny and Donegal Town, providing accessible, low-cost counselling for anyone who needs it.
Thanks to a donation of €1,000 from the local Everglow Project last week, Nurture Health can also subsidise counselling for women who may not be able to afford it, depending on individual cases.
Over the past three years, Debbie has seen a rise in demand for counselling locally, which she puts down to a number of reasons.
“More people are coming to us because there is greater awareness around maternal mental health. It is great to have days like World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day and discussion in the media normalises it,” she says.
“The second reason is there is a gap within the HSE and what is available as part of maternity care,” Debbie continues.
“You come out of hospital and you have your check-ups, we have more medical and clinical supports for mothers and children now, but counselling doesn’t really come into that. There is one person in the county that covers everything in this area – from loss of pregnancy, childbirth, post-natal depression and post traumatic stress disorder. We would be aware that Counselling in Primary Care has a waiting list.”
Debbie added: “Gynae are so good and so sensitive and kind, but the aftercare isn’t really there. There is nobody to talk to in the weeks and months afterwards.”
Debbie points out that open conversations on motherhood have come a long way in recent decades.
She says, “It would have been unheard of to talk about the experience of giving birth in the media years ago. The conversation wouldn’t have been entertained or expanded on. Women would have been expected to put up and shut up.
“The more we talk about our experiences, the more we help each other.”
Debbie advises friends and family to break the taboo in everyday conversations: “If you give a mum the opportunity to talk, then you are doing womanhood and motherhood a great service.
“I think what is really important is for us to really ask the question ‘How are you?’ to mum, because we do focus on the baby. But that small statement means an awful lot.”
It should be noted that maternal mental health issues affect dads and partners too.
Debbie says: “I often have dads come in with their partner, they need to understand what they are going through. It’s not easy for men either. But I like to think that we are becoming a more responsive and compassionate society.”
‘Keep talking’ is Debbie’s message for everyone this World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day. If you would like to find out more about Nurture Health, visit www.nurturehealth.ie
Support services are affordable, immediate and accessible with a ‘No Wait List Policy’. Counselling is also available via Telephone and Skype calls.