In episode 14 of Beyond Postpartum I chat with Patricia Tomasi and Jaime Charlebois who are the co-founders of the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative. They share their own stories of resilience and recovery from perinatal mental illness, and why Canada needs a national perinatal mental health strategy, right now.
Jaime Charlebois is the Perinatal Mood Disorder Coordinator at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital and Regional Volunteer Coordinator for Postpartum Support International. She is also the co-founder of the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative, a group of advocates lobbying the federal government to create a perinatal mental health strategy. Ms. Charlebois holds a Master of Science in Nursing, a Perinatal Nursing Certification from the Canadian Nurses Association and a Perinatal Mental Health certification from Postpartum Support International. Her work experience includes 16 years of clinical nursing, seven years in higher education, and seven years in clinical leadership positions. She collaborates at the local, provincial, and national level with multiple organizations and committees.
Patricia Tomasi is a mom of two who struggled to find help for her perinatal mental illness. She is a former-journalist-turned-fierce-advocate who went from writing about the state of maternal mental health in Canada as a reporter for HuffPost Canada to lobbying the federal government for a national perinatal mental health strategy. She is the Co-founder and Communications Director for the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative and the Founder of the cheeky Maternal Mental Health Matters Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages with over 13,000 followers. She started a private Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group in 2017 where thousands of women from around the world can support each other 24/7. Prior to her advocacy work, Patricia spent a decade providing communications and media relations expertise for the Ontario government and in addition to HuffPost Canada, she worked as a reporter for CTV and CBC news in Vancouver, Toronto, Timmins, and Thunder Bay.
In this episode, we talk about:
- Having mental health challenges in the perinatal period and not being flagged, screened, or treated
- Believing that mental health struggles are our own fault because of the lack of support inherent in the health care system
- Having to be our own advocates to get help and support from health care providers
- How instrumental peer support is in recovery
- The many different flavours of panic attacks
- The lack of perinatal mental health care being a human rights issue as much as a medical issue
- Jaime’s experience with mental health challenges, that were brought on by physical health challenges and severe sleep deprivation
- The trauma that can result from experience postpartum mental health challenges
- How untreated perinatal illness can have long lasting impacts on the whole family
- The positive effect that weaning had on Jaime’s mental health
- How Jaime and Patricia met, and how the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative was formed
- The petition they brought to the federal government and the House of Commons
- What they want to be included in a national perinatal mental health strategy
- The postal code lottery of services here in Canada
- Why we need a national strategy