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07 Jun, Wednesday
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Montreal Families

Walk raises awareness about maternal mental health

When Natasha MacDonald became pregnant with her first child, she was very excited about becoming a mom and all the joy it would bring to her life. She said she expected it to be an awesome experience in part because so many people had told her about the overwhelming feelings of love she would have for her child.

But despite a large support system made up of family and friends, the transition to motherhood was far from easy. MacDonald says she grappled with mixed emotions; she loved her son but often felt sad, numb, disconnected and inadequate.

“Some days I felt really depleted,” she said. “I loved this little boy so much but I couldn’t shake off this feeling of not being enough for him. I had trouble finding joy in the moments where I thought I would find it.”

Plagued by guilt and confusion about her feelings, MacDonald says she only told her husband three and a half years into motherhood that she was suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. “I was in denial, and I wanted to make it seem that I could tackle it all on my own,” she said.

MacDonald says over time, she derived some comfort from running and eventually decided to speak to a doctor about her feelings.  Last year, she took part in Flora’s Walk, organized by the non-profit Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (CPMHC). The fundraising event raises money for mental health conditions prevalent during and post pregnancy, and was named in honour of a Toronto mom who committed suicide after suffering from undiagnosed postpartum psychosis.

Participating in the walk made MacDonald realize how important it was for her to tell her story.  She says a weight was lifted from her shoulders and she drew comfort from sharing her experiences with others through social media platforms. Many people in turn messaged her about similar struggles.

Natasha MacDonald

More services needed to support women

The most common perinatal mental health problems, which occur in the 12 months following the child’s birth, are depression and anxiety. According to the CPMHC, up to 40 per cent of women experience perinatal mental illness in Canada. Additionally, according to a survey conducted by the organization, 95 per cent of health care providers believe there aren’t enough services in Canada for women who need help through this period.

Because running has helped her through tough times, MacDonald’s goal is to run 10 metres for every $1 she raises. So far, she has raised more than $3,700. To donate to her campaign, click here.

“As women, we are often made to feel that motherhood should come naturally to us,” said MacDonald, who lives on the South Shore with her husband and three sons. “But this isn’t the case for everyone. That’s why I think events like this are important because they get the conversation going about what the reality is for a lot of women.”

She adds that it is time to lift the veil on the stigmas associated with maternal mental health and she hopes that raising awareness will help women feel less isolated and ashamed.

Forty cities across Canada will host a walk this year. A quarter of the proceeds will go to local organizations supporting parents who are dealing with perinatal anxiety while the rest will go to building advocacy chapters to champion for more support. The walks will take place during World Maternal Mental Health Week, which is between April 29 and May 7.

In Montreal, The Flora Walk will take place on Thursday, May 4 between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m at Angrignon Park.

For more information on the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative and Flora’s walk, click here.

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