Good beginnings for mental health start in the cradle
Infant mental health researchers and practitioners share strategies for interventions into postpartum depression
Lana Clyde (above, left) decided to get better. She had suffered mild depression on and off for 15 years. But a few weeks after her second child was born, she was hit with severe postpartum depression and anxiety.
“There is no sugar-coating, it was the worst depression I ever experienced,” the Calgary mother admits. “I felt symptoms of very low mood and felt like I wasn’t capable of looking after my children. I even started experiencing intrusive thoughts that I couldn’t understand.”
Clyde received help through a community support group called Families Matter and also sought professional help at the Women’s Mental Health Clinic supported by Alberta Health Services. The services helped immediately, but Clyde waited six months to access them. She overcame the depression within the year. She says it was the best thing she did for her and for her children, now one-and-a-half and four years old.
Postpartum depression (PPD) obstructs a mother’s capacity for understanding and enjoying her baby. Approximately one in five moms experiences the symptoms of PPD. Clyde’s experiences highlight the importance of understanding the relationship between infant and maternal mental health in order to enable supportive programs for all family members to thrive.
Never too early to start thinking about mental health
As president of the Alberta Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMH), Dr. Nicole Letourneau, PhD, RN, hosted AAIMH’s annual conference Sept. 24 at the Alberta Children’s Hospital to highlight the importance of starting mental health programs early in a child’s life.
“It’s never too early to start thinking about mental health and we know prevention is best, so focusing on moms with postpartum depression is very important to improving early beginnings for the child and mom,” says Letourneau who holds the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health and is a professor in the Faculty of Nursing and Cumming School of Medicine. She is also a member of the CSM’s Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
The AAIMH has been active in Alberta since 2011 and works to bring together clinicians and researchers to better understand and serve the needs of vulnerable infants and mothers in the community. Dr. Angelique Jenney, PhD, is the Wood’s Homes Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary. Keynote speaker at the conference, she advocates for trauma-informed, and relationship-based interventions for mothers.
“Early intervention is key, and that means helping caregivers be the best parents that they can be. It means providing supports and resources to prevent future harms,” says Jenney. “No one is a perfect parent, we all want to do the best that we can, but caregiving is really a team sport. The more supports in place for children and caregivers, the better our communities will be.”
Clyde is now a passionate advocate for helping mothers who experience postpartum depression. By overcoming her own challenges, she says she’s ready to be more involved. She’s enrolled in a study called VID-KIDS, supervised by Letourneau, which is assessing the effectiveness of a supportive parenting program for mothers with postpartum depression. The study is open for mothers who have infants between two and six months of age and are suffering from PPD. For parents interested in participating, email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Clyde is also busily creating a support group online for moms and hopes to continue to speak out for this vulnerable population. She will be joining Letourneau on Oct. 17 at the CSM’s Science in the Cinema to participate in a discussion on postpartum depression. The public is welcome to attend this free event which includes watching the movie, Tully, followed by a talk.
Letourneau’s research is supported by community donations through the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. The VID-KIDS study is supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant.
Interested in this topic? Learn more:
- Explore research into strengths-based, empowering approaches to postpartum depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder: New ways of thinking about mental health
- Watch the video for more practical advice from the experts on managing postpartum depression: How postpartum depression affects babies