When Dayna Dekroon met with Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey earlier this month on a mission to save the only service in Lambton County for mothers with post partum depression (PPD), she wanted him to know its importance.
“I told him, if this program wasn’t a part of our community, I don’t know if I would physically be here,” said Dekroon, who suffered PPD following the births of both her daughters.
“Thoughts of suicide definitely came into my mind. For me, it saved my life.”
Dekroon joined representatives from St. Clair Child & Youth, which offers the Post Partum Adjustment Program, and Lambton Public Health, to asked Bailey for funding — specifically, $145,000 to stay afloat for one more year.
Their request is backed by Lambton-Kent midwives, CMHA Lambton-Kent, and local physicians who all say women will suffer without the program— ending up in the emergency department, facing longer hospital stays, and even risk suicide.
“It’s worthwhile, it’s valuable, and we have no one else doing it,” agency director Virginia Allan said of the program, which supports mothers and families through home visits, phone calls, screening, support groups, and individual and family counselling.
About 200 local women are referred for information and support each year.
“It’s an enormously wise economic investment in early mental health because the impact of untreated postpartum issues and depression are significant and well-documented,” she said.
The agency says one in five mothers experience some degree of PPD (also referred to as Post Partum Mood Disorders) following the birth or adoption of a baby.
The program was part of the previous government’s Best Start Initiative, for which Lambton was one of three demonstration sites under the Ministry of Children & Youth. But that has since moved to the Ministry of Education, rebranded as “EarlyOn” and no longer includes PPD in its scope.
Allan explained they simply want to keep the program alive in the midst of the Ford government’s planned overhaul of Ontario’s health care system.
“While the dust settles, we will be putting together a more concerted plan with more partners. But for now, we’re just trying to maintain what we’re doing so that we don’t lose it while the system transforms.”
She and Dekroon provided Bailey with letters from local moms who have benefited from the program, many who say it saved them from the unthinkable.
“I was sinking in a hole so deep that I was certain for many days, weeks and months in a row that I would never get out,” wrote Kim Carnahan, who sought help following the birth of her first daughter in 2017.
Despite having a support system of family and friends, she felt guilt, shame, hopelessness and isolation. The program’s group therapy and one-on-one counselling helped her see the light again.
“It helped me understand that I did not choose those thoughts and they certainly did not define me or the love I have for my child.”
Bailey told The Journal he’s reaching out to the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care as well as the Erie St. Clair LHIN, and is “quite confident we’ll be able to come up with the money.”
He’s encouraging more families to submit letters, and Dekroon is hoping to get 50 or more.
“I hear these stories a lot, but reading these letters still gives me shivers,” said Allan.
“Women are really vulnerable in writing them. They’re saying they are not sure if they’d even be alive… I don’t know how more important you get than that.”
Anyone interested in contributing a letter about the PPD program can send to Virginia Allan at [email protected].
To speak to a member of the Post Partum Adjustment Team, call 519-337-3701, ext. 3.