Meet the members of the CPMHC National Committee all working hard towards achieving a national perinatal mental health strategy. We’re in great hands!
Dr. Jodi Pawluski is a Neuroscientist and Therapist supporting peripartum mental health. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from The University of British Columbia in 2007 after completing a Master of Arts in Psychology at the University of Toronto in 2003. Recently she has completed a certificate in the practice of psychotherapy. She is currently a researcher at the University of Rennes 1 in France and a therapist offering online therapy to those in need. For over a decade her research has focused on the neuroscience of motherhood and the role of maternal mental illness and antidepressant medications on the brain and behavior of the mother and developing offspring. One key theme that has come from her research is that effective treatment to maintain maternal mental health is necessary. She regularly speaks nationally and internationally about her research findings and publishes her work in scientific journals. She is on the editorial board of journals such as Archives of Women’s Mental Health (Springer) and is an advocate for increasing awareness on how the brain is affected by pregnancy and motherhood during health and disease. She is thrilled to be part of CPMHC to ensure that a national perinatal mental health strategy is put in place. No mother should be without the support that she needs. (twitter: @JodiPawluski / insta: @jodi.pawluski / http://www.jodipawluski.com)
Alexandra Lihou Gibson is absolutely thrilled to be a committee member for the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative. Alexandra is a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), a Perinatal Mental Health Certified Provider, and a Compassionate Bereavement Care Certified Provider. She is located in Vancouver, BC and is employed by the Fraser Health Authority in the Reproductive Mental Health Program, and at Holding Space Counselling and Psychotherapy. The focus of Alexandra’s counselling work is with individuals who struggle with mental health concerns that arise or become worsened in pregnancy and the postpartum period, as well as during times of infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy interruption, birth loss, traumatic birth and the transition to parenthood. Alexandra also spends her time advocating for her clients through creating and implementing programming strategies needed to further support the perinatal population.
Melissa Maidment is a registered Social Worker, and is a member of the Ontario Association of Social Workers. Melissa specializes in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), currently working as the Indigenous Perinatal Mental Health Worker (IPMHW) at Chigamik Community Health Center in Midland, Ontario. Melissa provides individual and group therapy by incorporating various therapeutic modalities with the Indigenous cultural framework of the medicine wheel, working with clients in fostering a balance in their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual self. Melissa resides in Ontario with her husband Curtis, and her daughter Mackenna. Since before the birth of her daughter, Melissa started specializing in reproductive therapy, having experienced firsthand, a lengthy fertility journey. Melissa has worked in private practice settings, supporting individuals and couples undergoing reproductive procedures, and continues to offer reproductive therapy in her current role. Following Melissa’s own lived experiences with perinatal loss, Melissa added to her specialization to include bereavement therapy, supporting individuals, couples, groups, and families through their journey of perinatal loss. Melissa continues to be active in the community and is involved with the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network (PAIL). Melissa’s passion for the perinatal field has led her to train as a maternal support practitioner, a full spectrum doula supporting clients through fertility, birth and their postpartum periods. Melissa is dedicated and passionate about creating a safe and supportive space where the birthing person is provided with education to ensure informed choices/consent is respected and ensure their voices are heard. Melissa’s lived experience with infertility, perinatal losses, and PMAD has not only shaped and guided her work, but continues to be a driving force in supporting others in their journey.
Hello Canada! My name is Alana Oikonen, and I am a mother of two wonderful, intelligent, and fun girls, ages five and almost three. I live in Prince George, British Columbia where I enjoy easy access to the great outdoors, which I love to explore through hiking. Professionally, I am an Occupational Therapist and have worked in mental health my entire career, in both community and residential settings. I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety with both my children. With my first daughter, my symptoms became disruptive about four months after her birth and asking for help was very difficult and took months. With my second, the depression and anxiety began during pregnancy and continued through her infancy and then reared its head again while we were weaning. As someone who works in mental health care, I thought I was educated and aware of what postpartum depression could be – I was wrong. Anyone can experience perinatal health issues. After my personal experience with perinatal mental health issues, I have shared my experience with others and become an advocate for better services for women and their families. I am excited to be a part of the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative and proud to be one of many women raising their voices to say: “You are not alone”.
Rosa Caporicci is a registered psychotherapist in private practice in Montreal, Quebec specializing in reproductive mental health. She received her M.A. in Counselling Psychology from McGill University, and went on to do post-graduate training in the areas of perinatal mood & anxiety disorders and perinatal loss with organizations such as the Postpartum Stress Centre, Postpartum Support International (PSI) and the Perinatal Loss & Death Alliance (PLIDA). Inspired by her own lived experience she has chosen to work exclusively with women and families dealing with perinatal and postpartum difficulties, and with women and families who are confronting loss whether due to miscarriage, pregnancy interruption, stillbirth, infertility or neonatal death. She has in recent years collaborated with the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) to develop and deliver a perinatal and neonatal loss support group, as well as creating support groups for infertility and the postpartum period . Finally, she is an active member of PSI, PLIDA, the Marcé Society of North America (MONA), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) and Fertility Matters Canada.
Kayla Bell is a Registered Nurse on a Neurology and neuro-surgery unit at the Royal University Hospital and the co founder of the non-profit Mother May I in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She is passionate about her profession and helping others. Mother May I is dedicated to spreading awareness and stories about postpartum, and raises funds to support maternal mental health initiatives within the community. Kayla is a wife to her amazing husband Bryce, and mother to her sweet boy Jackson who are her driving force to make a difference and help mothers who are struggling. After coming out the other side of her struggles with postpartum, PTSD, anxiety and OCD, Kayla has become a maternal mental health advocate who’s focus is improving access to treatment. She is motivated and working towards the dream of having a maternal mental health inpatient unit in Saskatoon, where women are supported and able to receive treatment while staying with their babies. She hopes that by being on the national committee and helping to create a national strategy, this vision can come to life.
Dr. Nichole Fairbrother is a Clinical Associate Professor with the UBC Department of Psychiatry and the Island Medical Program. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of British Columbia in 2002, and subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in women’s reproductive health through the Child and Family Research Institute and the UBC Department of Health Care and Epidemiology. Dr. Fairbrother’s research is in the area of perinatal anxiety disorders and epidemiology, with a focus on new mothers’ thoughts of infant-related harm and perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Current research activities include a large-scale study of maternal thoughts of infant-related harm and their relation to postpartum OCD and child harm, and several inter-connected studies of fear of childbirth. She is currently in the planning stages for a study of perinatal anxiety disorder screening and two randomized controlled trials of online CBT for fear of childbirth, and postpartum OCD. Dr. Nichole Fairbrother is a Clinical Associate Professor with the UBC Department of Psychiatry and the Island Medical Program. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of British Columbia in 2002, and subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in women’s reproductive health through the Child and Family Research Institute and the UBC Department of Health Care and Epidemiology. Dr. Fairbrother’s research is in the area of perinatal anxiety disorders and epidemiology, with a focus on new mothers’ thoughts of infant-related harm and perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Current research activities include a large-scale study of maternal thoughts of infant-related harm and their relation to postpartum OCD and child harm, and several inter-connected studies of fear of childbirth. She is currently in the planning stages for a study of perinatal anxiety disorder screening and two randomized controlled trials of online CBT for fear of childbirth, and postpartum OCD.
Anne TM Konkle, PhD, is a mother, a step-mother and an advocate for issues related to mental health. She is an Associate Professor in the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences and a member of the University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute. Dr. Konkle earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Ottawa in 2003, specializing in sex differences in animal models of depression. Her post-doctoral fellowships allowed her to expand her work to investigate sex differences in neurodevelopment and related psychopathologies. Dr. Konkle’s original research focused on how the environment influences neurodevelopment. This was quickly re-directed to think about the mother-infant dyad; the health and particularly the mental health of the mother can impact her interactions with her newborn and thus, can play a role in offspring neurodevelopment. Dr Konkle’s research has expanded to explore how to de-stigmatize issues of mental health, in particular maternal mental health. Some of the work conducted by her research group is aimed at better understanding how maternal mental health (and in fact, parental mental health) is depicted in the media, with a particular emphasis on social media, given the media’s influence on our knowledge and perception of issues surrounding mental health.
Heather Marcoux is a journalist and mother based in Alberta. Now the News Editor for Motherly, she previously worked in television newsrooms throughout the Prairies. She’s produced and reported for Global, CityTV and CTV, and co-anchored CTV Morning Live Saskatoon before returning home to Alberta in 2014 to start her family. In 2015 she gave birth and experienced the lack of support and systemic barriers Canadian mothers face when seeking help for perinatal mental health challenges. Since 2017 Heather has reported extensively on maternal health, perinatal mood disorders and gender inequality. Her work is read by millions and she is proud to be among those declaring 2020 the #yearofthemother, demanding better maternal mental health support for mothers everywhere. Heather believes Canadian families deserve a national strategy for perinatal mental health because untreated perinatal mental health issues are costing families and the Canadian economy far too much.
My parenting journey inspired me to do something to help other parents. I completed my MA on methods of increasing father involvement at the transition to parenting, sending text messages to fathers with ways they can support their infants, their partners and themselves. Currently I am working at Brock University in an administrative role, and as an instructor for nursing students on how to be better health educators. I volunteer with Life with a Baby, organizing events for parents of kids 0-6 to increase their social network, and to get information from community partners such as workshops on First Aid, mental health and sleep. During my MA, I was able to take many learning opportunities around knowledge mobilization – from lessons on social media, to courses on Organizational Behaviour and Knowledge Mobilization. In my free time, I like watching TV – including reruns of Friends or Paw Patrol.
Kiersta Hazlett is a Public Health Nurse in Ontario who has spent the last 15 years working with families, most recently in the areas of Reproductive Health and the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program. She works first hand with families who are living with perinatal mental illnesses and knows many of the barriers they face to accessing the best possible care in a timely manner. Having also experienced a perinatal mood disorder, Kiersta knows first hand how challenging it can be to take the first steps to getting help. After coming out on the other side of major postpartum depression, Kiersta discovered a passion for supporting others experiencing perinatal mood disorders, as well as a desire to effect change to our healthcare system. Her vision is to see all Canadians receiving better access to care that can save lives and improve family health, regardless of socioeconomic status or where they live. Kiersta began her career working as a medical surgical nurse on the multi organ transplant floor at SickKids in Toronto. Since then she has completed her Masters in Nursing from the University of Toronto and has gone on to receive specialized training from Postpartum Support International, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Association, and the Parent-Child Relationship Programs from the University of Washington. When Kiersta isn’t working she enjoys spending time with her friends, partner and three kids playing board games, travelling, camping, skiing, playing volleyball, and hanging out around a good backyard bonfire.
Christine Ou is a registered nurse, nursing instructor at Langara College, and a doctoral candidate and Public Scholar at the University of British Columbia. For her dissertation research she is examining the relationships between postpartum maternal sleep quality and levels of anger and depression. As a UBC Public Scholar, Christine is also partnering with Pacific Post Partum Support Society on projects related to supporting parents to get enough sleep and also supporting mothers in their second postpartum year. https://www.grad.ubc.ca/campus-community/meet-our-students/ou-christine
Dr. Sarah Stewart-Clark is an associate professor in shellfish biology at Dalhousie University. She lives in both PEI and NS with her husband, Fraser, and son Rory. Since the birth of her son in 2011, Sarah has helped build and lead local grassroots groups and campaigns to improve access to mental health services and to advocate for and serve vulnerable Islanders. She co-founded the group Island Mothers Helping Mothers, which serves as a supportive village for caregivers in the province. With a membership of 5000, this group has provided over $400,000 in assistance to families in PEI over the last five yeas. In 2017, Sarah launched a highly successful social media campaign called #HowManyWade, which started a provincial conversation about the lack of mental healthcare in Prince Edward Island. She has hosted public forums on mental healthcare, addictions and is a strong advocate for survivors of sexual violence. This extraordinary dedication to community service in PEI was acknowledged with a nomination in 2018 to receive the Order of Prince Edward Island. Sarah ran for public office and was one of five candidates who ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of PEI in 2019. As the sole female candidate in this leadership race, Sarah brought forward a strong voice for women in the province. Sarah is passionate about ensuring underrepresented voices are present and heard at decision making tables.
Kathryn Thompson is a mother of two, and a Registered Psychotherapist. Her work experience began in Women’s Shelters in urban and rural settings. She returned to school to complete her studies and graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree from Queen’s University in 2019. Kathryn continues her work as a strong advocate for women who have experienced trauma and abuse in their lives. As a passionate supporter for better services to new parents she works to educate trauma survivors about perinatal mental wellness. When possible. Kathryn works to educate her professional colleagues about the increased risks and barriers for new mothers when there is current and/or past abuse in a mother’s life. Kathryn assisted in the development of the Intimate Intimate Partner Violence Checklist, a tool used to assess the harm women face when in an abusive relationship. The tool was designed and implemented in the City of Kingston and South Frontenac Township. Next steps for Kathryn include completion of her Masters in Narrative Therapy and Community Work in 2020.
Rhea Eady is the founder and owner of The Family Wellness Centre; a private practice dedicated to perinatal education and support. She is known to be a compassionate community leader, teacher and advocate for families during the perinatal period. She believes that maternal mental health begins long before the day of birth and is specifically interested in the mental, emotional and spiritual consequences of the birthing experience. Rhea’s undergraduate studies in social work at the University of Windsor focused on Indigenous birth outcomes and the disparities between populations. Within her professional career, she has worked as a Labour Doula and Childbirth Educator since 2010. She has supported hundreds of families throughout the perinatal period. Working with low and high-risk birthing populations has taught her about the strengths and limitations the current maternal health care system holds. Rhea is a mother of 3 and a survivor of a traumatic birth experience that caused postpartum anxiety. Naturally, this led to a volunteer role with Postpartum Support International. Here, she holds the position of Support Coordinator for Ottawa Ontario. This position aligns new parents with mental health supports for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
Dr. Danielle Watson is a naturopathic doctor with a focus in maternal care. Dr. Watson supports women throughout their preconception time, pregnancy and into the postpartum period. Current models of postpartum care do not support mothers in the transition to this new stage of life. Dr. Watson has made it her goal to change the dynamic in healthcare so that it is supportive of new mothers during their matrescence. Dr. Watson teaches other clinicians in her course ‘Prepared Postpartum’, to forward this goal. Dr. Watson completed her Doctor of Naturopathy Degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Prior to that, she completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is registered to practice by the College of Naturopaths of Ontario & is a member of both the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors & the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors.
Catherine is a strong-willed, passionate and dedicated person, mom, partner and social worker. A few years ago, she experienced a life-changing episode of severe postpartum depression after the birth of her first child and, sadly, had to fight to get someone to take her seriously. After seeing both a social worker and psychologist who wrote her off as having « baby blues », she was eventually hospitalized in a psychiatric institute, spending several days there without being allowed to see her month-old son. Thankfully, she had a few very supportive people in her life who were there to care for her and her son throughout the hospitalization and afterwards. This ordeal has profoundly affected her and has made her realize that as it stands, perinatal health and social services in Canada are utterly lacking in appropriate and adapted care. Her main goal in being part of this committee is not only to raise awareness of the existence and prevalence of perinatal mental health issues, that still seem to be somewhat taboo, but also to demand that our government take better care of new parents and their babies.
Emily Garner is a peer counsellor and group facilitator at Pacific Post Partum Support Society. After her kids were born, she was surprised that she didn’t transform into the muffin making, kale chip toting, domestic goddess she thought she would. Unable to live up to her own expectations of motherhood, Emily found herself in a therapist’s office to get help for anxiety. It is this experience that drives her career in perinatal mental health. In addition to mental health care, Emily has supported families in their transition to parenthood through her work as a birth doula. Emily has a BFA in Visual Arts and lives with her partner and their kids on Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam territories. Social justice and anti-oppression are central to her life and work.
Dr. Hicks is a social worker, researcher, clinician, yoga & meditation teacher specialized in perinatal and infant mental health. She began this work in Windsor, ON and is now Research Faculty at the Renée Crown Wellness Institute at the University of Colorado – Boulder. She completed a dual-title PhD in Social Work and Infant Mental Health at Wayne State University, including a year-long clinical internship at the University of Michigan with their Reproductive Psychiatry Team. She subsequently completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at University of Denver focused on utilizing interpersonal therapy with depressed pregnant women and how this may mitigate the intergenerational transmission of risk of depression to their infants. Her work specifically focuses on investigating resiliency factors and interventions (specifically mindfulness-based) that improve wellbeing during pregnancy and postpartum for the whole family system. She is passionate about supporting ways to integrate evidence-based methods into behavioral health settings, ensuring that no family is left behind. This not only includes trans-disciplinary collaborations, but also developing and disseminating interventions that are culturally relevant, trauma-informed and most of all useful and effective to ALL parents and their children. As a social worker, she works to translate her research findings to policy and system-level change. She brings the unique perspective of working within health care systems within Canada and the United States.
Dr. Saba Sagliker Kose completed her Family Medicine Residency and became a specialist in 2017 in Turkey. During her residency, she conducted an internship in Montreal Neurological Institute & Douglas Mental Health University Institute, worked on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’s (ADHD) relations with cortical thickness and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Saba Sagliker Kose’s research focus is in area of early childhood development support and maternal mental health protection in primary healthcare settings. Her thesis underlined the mother’s knowledge deficiency in early childhood development and its stressful effects on mothers and young families. She awarded by a national grand to create a guideline for leading healthcare professionals how to support mothers throughout perinatal period. In the meantime, she became a board member of Turkish Association of Family Physicians, worked for creating public and professional awareness of perinatal wellbeing and accentuating its importance to lawmakers. She is passionate about bringing whole family around the table -especially including the fathers- to discuss about their wellbeing after the birth of their baby. She currently conducts a clinical internship in Foundation du Dr. Julien to experience social pediatric aspects for supporting families locally.
I am a business professional and mother of two young boys in Newfoundland. I am a Labour & Birth Doula and Postpartum Doula certified through Doula Training Canada, Infant Nutrition through Deacon University and Infant Brian development through Warrick University as well as various training in breastfeeding support. I have volunteered with perinatal mental health support organization Postpartum Support International. I worked Choices for Youth Momma Moments program, a peer-to-peer support and strengths based group for young parents or pregnant mothers. It provided wrap-around support to navigate the challenges of motherhood, which they often face in addition to social isolation, financial demands, and limited social and family support. I volunteer with various support groups for new mothers within our community as well. After running a baby boutique for 10 years I discovered that new parents really were not prepared for the challenges and realities of the transition into parenthood. My passion quickly turned from the business side of retail to learning and sharing support for new parents and bringing awareness to the challenges facing those experiencing mental health issues during this new stage of adulthood.
In 2008 I suffered from postpartum psychosis for almost two years. At the time, there were no resources available, to my knowledge. I was sent to numerous doctors that just had no clue how to treat me. I was put on several medications that really just made me high. Fast forward….I had three more beautiful children and with each of them was terrified of going through it again. Thankfully I didn’t. What was different this time? I had the knowledge I needed to see the signs and get help at the first sign of any depression. Knowledge = Power. In the past I have had many different jobs, mostly in corporate. The one job that I did have that I believe would greatly help the committee ( besides lived experience) was working as supervisor for a homeless initiative with the City of Toronto. I held that position for four years. Our goal was to advocate for those living on the streets dealing with homelessness and in most cases, mental health and addiction. As I enter my 40s this year, one of my goals is to commit and advocate for change in perinatal mental health. One day, I would love to get involved in peer counseling.
Dana is passionate about maternity care and working with the women to impact change. Dana works as a birth and postpartum doula focused on mental wellness. She is a mental health and maternity care health advocate who has worked with and continues to advise various government ministries, officials, senior healthcare executives and other key stakeholders to create awareness and change. Dana is passionate about collective healing and mental wellness (postpartum, depression, anxiety and trauma) which is complemented by her lived experience. She is the past-President of the Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (ASAC) where she co-published a report on “the State of Maternity Care in Alberta”. She also co-creates various campaigns focused on the human rights issue of options in childbirth. Dana played a key role in the telling of the story of “Obstetrical Violence in Canada” featured on CBC, The National. She was the Business Development & Partnerships Consultant with the Maternal Mental Health Research Collaborative funded by the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Her main project was on understanding the importance of Peer Support Groups and the role technology plays. She was responsible for preparing business plans and governance documentation along with identifying and connecting with relevant stakeholders, including funding opportunities, at the local, national, and international level. Dana is a mother of two boys. She has a Bachelor of Commerce and is a 6 Sigma Black Belt. After Dana had children and started to experience increases in anxiety and insomnia as a new mother, she noticed she was not alone in the “fake it until you make it” theme experienced by so many mothers. She started to see first hand we were all struggling and shared similar stories: We were tired mothers who were trying our best yet still experiencing mental health concerns and needing community. It is Dana’s goal to work with others to create these communities of collaborative support for women. She first had to start with herself. After her separation, Dana took a hard look at herself and began a deep journey into healing and self-care. It wasn’t until her kids were much older that she realized the things she was going through for so many years were likely a result of a PMAD. She, like so many others, were silently suffering under the pressure to keep up and be an unrealistic version of the perfect mother. What she found was that many women (were) experienced/ing similar symptoms and many even worse. This ignited Dana’s desire to work with women even more. She is passionate about bringing awareness to the role government, public policies, access, etc. play in a women’s maternity care experience and overall impact on reproductive and mental health. Her vision is that all women are supported and surrounded by the community they require to thrive in their lives. Dana continues to consult on various projects as well as offer Doula support, circles and one-on-one healing.
Bryanne Harris, MA is a Registered Psychologist working in private practice at True North Psychological Services in Kingston, NS. After having her own child in 2017, Ms. Harris became increasingly aware of the lack of resources for maternal mental health in Nova Scotia and decided to specialize in therapeutic work with perinatal and postpartum women. She therefore attended post-graduate training with Karen Kleiman at the Postpartum Stress Centre in Philadelphia, USA and then attended the Maternal Mental Health Certificate Training for Mental Health and Clinical Professionals through Postpartum Support International. Ms. Harris has been approved to write the Perinatal Mental Health Certification exam and will do so in the coming months and is working toward a provincial initiative to improve supports for women facing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. In addition to her work with perinatal women, Bryanne has spent the majority of her work treating military veterans, first responders and their families for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Currently, Ms. Harris uses both a cognitive-behavioural (CBT) approach, in addition to Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in her therapy.
Sondra’s background in family therapy and mental health work drives her passion for supporting families and individuals navigating perinatal mental health. Diagnosed with perinatal depression and anxiety after her second child Sondra understands the perils and challenges of navigating the system and the long wait lists and difficulties connected with getting support. As the Program Coordinator and Lead instructor for Doula Canada, Sondra has her finger on the pulse of perinatal health across Canada through the eyes of her students. She understands the need for a national strategy both personally and professionally. Sondra is a mama to two curious and bright little girls and 2 fur babies. She loves hiking and camping and tv with equal fervour!
Nellie Kennedy is employed by the Province of Manitoba as a Community Service Worker with the Community Living Disability Services Program. She supports vulnerable adults, coordinates services, and is an expert at system navigation. Despite having these skills, Nellie experienced significant mental health difficulties soon after the birth of her son in 2009, and then later with her daughter in 2013. Nellie experienced postpartum depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Her personal journey of recovery was challenging as the supports and services weren’t easily accessible or simply did not exist in Manitoba. Her personal lived experience fuelled her passion to advocate for change and improve the information and support available to women and their families experiencing perinatal mental health issues. In April 2011, Nellie co-founded the Postpartum Depression Association of Manitoba, and led the development of a website that acts as a central hub for resources on perinatal mental health. Since its launch, over 50,000 visitors have gone to the website. Engaging with media, health care providers, and the public, Nellie shares her story with the goal of improving public awareness on this mental health issue. Nellie has been instrumental in leading advocacy and creating change to improve the available supports women need to heal from their illness and care for their children. Nellie has also been nominated for a Mental Health Heroes award through the Canadian Mental Health Association under the Inspiring Individual Award category.
My name is Megan and my perinatal journey started seven years ago while I was pregnant with my first daughter. I had no idea what was going on inside of me. Nobody talked about it, nobody thought it was something I needed help with and I hid it as much as I possibly could. This led me to experience severe suicidal thoughts and extreme mental breakdowns after the birth of my first daughter. I knew something was wrong but had no clue where to turn. At this point I began to try to understand the world of pre and postpartum seasons of my life. Fast forward to three years ago when I was pregnant with my second daughter and I began to have extreme panic attacks and depressive moods. I thankfully knew at this point that I needed help and made sure to advocate for myself that I couldn’t do this on my own. Having grown as a mother and a woman I was now better equipped with the knowledge to be assertive with what I knew I needed for myself, my life and the ones around me that were also affected by what I was going through. I now focus on never shying away from the realities of depression and anxiety and the dire and severe situations that pregnancy and post birth can have on families.
My name is Jaimee Folkins, and I am a licensed counselling therapist in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. I own a counselling practice called Balanced Beginnings Counselling Therapy, working with primarily women in all stages of their parenting journey, from conception to parenting and beyond, including pregnancy loss and infertility. I have a special interest in working with women as they explore the new identity inherent to becoming a mother, and figure out where they fit now that their lives are so inherently different than they were before. I utilize an integrative therapeutic approach in my practice, implementing tools from cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and narrative therapy to name a few, focusing on treating the whole person from a warm, non-judgemental, person centred approach. I am a mother first, and my experiences in raising my own children, as well as my experience holding space for other parents as they get to know themselves in this new capacity, informs my interactions with my clients.
My life changed forever, in ways that I could have never imagined, when my daughter was born over 30 years ago, a common outcome of new motherhood and beyond. In 1986, after a series of unsatisfactory prenatal classes, I begin my search for more helpful, realistic and compassionate services and programs for women, pre and postnatally. I became involved with the Pacific Postpartum Support Society and the Lower Mainland Childbearing Society. I trained as a telephone counsellor with PPPSS and also completed the group facilitator training and volunteered for a few years in both capacities. After I moved to Whitehorse, I was hired by Yukon Family Services Association as a Family Educator. YFSA, later morphing into Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services, was a non-profit agency offering counselling and parenting programs. I created, implemented and facilitated a wide range of programs for parents, solidly based in adult education principles. I became aware, after living here a short time, that there was limited or no awareness of perinatal mental health issues. In my position as a Family Educator (Certified Canadian Family Educator) at YFSA, I applied for funding and started a postpartum support group with one of my counsellor colleagues. I named the program Life after Birth. Life after Birth counselling was free and available in a timely manner. No wait lists! I also created and delivered several workshops on perinatal mental health for professionals (nurses, counsellors, doctors, social workers) in Whitehorse and smaller Yukon communities. While facilitating the postpartum support group, offering one-to one counselling for women, and being inspired by folks I met at PSI conferences, I felt that all new mothers deserved postpartum support. Therefore, the Mothering your Baby…the First Year program was ‘born’ in Whitehorse! Again, I applied for funding (United Way) and developed a Facilitator’s Guide for the Mothering group in collaboration with a Public Health Nurse at the Whitehorse Health Centre. Groups were offered for 10 to 12 women and their babies for six weeks, three times per year. The groups were, and continue to be highly valued. The guiding principles of the group were/are: emotional support, social connection and guided learning activities with ‘topics’ identified by the participants. I presented about our Yukon work at a PSI conference in California in the early 2000’s and also completed the PSI Training. In 2005, I contributed to Postpartum Depression, a guide for front-line health and social service providers. I continue to be passionate about supporting Yukon women and their families. My contact information is on the PSI web-site and I remain available for connection via email and by telephone.