Support needed for mothers

Dr Rochelle Hine.

Dr Rochelle Hine.

FINDINGS from a recently completed PhD by Dr Rochelle Hine has found strong support networks need to be put in place around mothers living with a mental illness.

Dr Hine, who is mental health services adult team manager at South West Healthcare, interviewed 17 mothers, from pregnancy to those with children up to the age of 18, over a three year period. 

Dr Hine said services for mothers with mental health issues need to have significant depth.

Her research has allowed her to recount stories from her subjects that show the impact of service offerings that don’t meet the mark.

“One women, who because she had post-natal depression with her first baby, got extra visits from support agencies with her second,” Dr Hine said.

“She cried after every visit because she felt the person visiting was there looking around, she felt really judged. She felt at risk of losing custody of her children. 

“The service could tick the box that it put extra visits into this person but the person didn’t experience that as supportive, so it wasn’t really meeting the purpose it should have.

“People in these service roles need to be well resourced to work with mothers with mental illnesses. They need to arrive with as little prejudice as possible and be ready to listen to those they are there to help.” 

Dr Hine said while motherhood is a time of great joy and pride, it can also carry with it overwhelming expectations.

She said these exceptions can be multiplied for women with mental health issues.

“I’ve heard becoming a mother called a catastrophic life event in that it causes so much change at every level, economically, socially, physically and biologically,” she said.

“We need to give women realistic expectations about motherhood instead of the socially constructed idea it is all positives. Connectiveness and developing positive networks with family, service providers and support groups is so important.”

Dr Hine said lots of the women she spoke to as part of her research had parents with mental illness and were determined to break the generational cycle.