Patricia Tomasi doesn’t remember much about motherhood with her first born. She was too sick with postpartum depression. Tomasi was in the dark about perinatal mental illness (PMI).Now she is trying to lift the blanket off an issue she feels does not get enough attention, both in the healthcare system and on a national and political level.
Tomasi has joined forces with Jaime Charlebois, who also has a similar story.
They want the federal government to create a National Perintal Mental Health Strategy.
Tomasi and Charlebois want universal screening for PMI.
“No one is screening for the most common complication of pregnancy and postpartum, “says Tomasi. “Even if you don’t have a mental health history, a person should be screened. Men and women can develop a PMI in the postpartum period without ever having had a mental health issue in their past.”
Tomasi says there are also needs to be improved treatment and better access to treatment. When PMI struck again after her second pregnancy, Tomasi says she had to march herself to the doctor and demand help.
“I took charge of my health. It was disheartening because the onus is on women and men to know and be aware they are going through a mental illness and to bring themselves to the doctor’s office.”
To make their case, the woman have created the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative. The Barrie moms fired off letters to the party leaders during the recent federal election and only heard back from Jagmeet Singh of the NDP, who endorsed their call for a national PMI strategy. They intend to work with Singh to bring the issue to the floor of the House of Commons.
Using stats from the Simcoe Musoka District Health Unit, Tomasi says PMI affects one in four moms here, slightly higher than the one in five average. Some of that she says is the result of living in an area with less access to services and specialized care, as well as transportation barriers.
Tomasi did take medication for PMI after the birth of her second child and it made all the difference in the world. Unlike her first pregnancy, when she felt her struggles were a character flaw rather than mental illness.
“I though it was something you brought on yourself,”she says. “I was in that camp that said just deal with it.”
Recognizing her illness the second time around allowed Tomasi to enjoy motherhood.
‘I can’t even remember what happened after I had my first child because I was so sick and needed help.”
Tomasi and Charlebois have created the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative Facebook page to raise awareness of what they are trying to achieve.