Sarnia postpartum services to be reborn

Lauren Davidson of Sarnia speaks at an event held at St. Clair Child and Youth Services in Point Edward about the future of local postpartum mood disorder services. Paul Morden/Postmedia Network Paul Morden / Paul Morden/The Observer

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A program helping mothers suffering from postpartum mood disorders (PPMD) is coming to an end in Lambton County, but something new is being born in its place.

Officials and families gathered March 6 at the St. Clair Child and Youth Service offices in Point Edward to hear about efforts to continue to provide services when the agency’s Postpartum Adjustment Program officially ends this month.

“We will continue to support women with PPMD in the community,” said Sue Barnes, executive director of St. Clair Child and Youth Services. “How we do it will be different.”

The program needed about $150,000 annually, which came “piecemeal” from several agencies over the years, Barnes said.

“It just never really had sustainable funding.”

But it served more than 500 mothers since beginning in 1998, and 60 women last year.

The centre has been meeting with other local partners, including Bluewater Health, Lambton Public Health, Canadian Mental Health Association and potentially others, Barnes said.

“We had some good conversations and we’re going to build capacity in the community, and be able to partner in a co-ordinated effort to keep the program running,” she said.

“It will look different than it is today, but we’re really hopeful and positive that we can actually make some improvements, and offer some additional services.”

It’s a program that “would fit nicely” into the local health team several agencies in the community have come together to explore forming, Barnes said.

Ontario Health Teams are an initiative of the provincial government to organize and deliver local services.

But, Barnes added, an Ontario Health Team in Lambton County is still a few years away from being up and running, if it goes ahead.

“Timing’s not the best, but we can work as a community to get this going right now,” she said.

The service should be “seamless” so mothers don’t have to make several calls, or visit several agencies, to access help, Barnes said.

There’s also a need for more community awareness about postpartum moods disorder, she said.

“Mental health, 10 years ago, was not something you talked about like we do today,” Barnes said.

“It was different back then. People just sort of hid it, and they suffered alone in their families.”

Leigh Cho-Young, a mother from Sarnia who spoke March 6 about her experiences, said that after her daughter was born, she felt constant anxiety, guilt, isolation and “an absolutely crushing fear that I was not, and what never be, the type of mom I always hoped.”

Cho-Young said her family and friends, who would normally describe her as resilient and confident, were supportive but postpartum mood disorder was as foreign concept to them as it was to her.

“No one, including myself, knew what was happening, why it was happening and, frankly, how the heck to fix it,” she said.

“I felt like I fell off a cliff I didn’t even know was there.”

She gave credit to the postpartum program at St. Clair Child and Youth Services with helping her, and connecting her to other mothers dealing with PPMD.

“They caught me,” and “brought me back not only to my former self, but a stronger version of myself,” Cho-Young said.

Lauren Davidson, another mother who spoke about the program, as “a glimmer of light” in the darkness of her experience after her child was born.

“It became my lifeline,” she said.

“I’m so hopeful our wonderful community can find a way to continue this worthwhile program.”

 

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