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Southwest Saskatchewan: Health BY CHRIS JASTER —

Kerry LaForge knew something was wrong with herself as soon as she got home after delivering her second child. She was hot; she was nauseous; she couldn’t eat

certain foods; she was extremely sensitive to smells, she wasn’t ticklish anymore; there wasn’t any more life in her eyes and she was battling her mind for what seemed right and what seemed wrong. Even though she just got out of the hospital after spending three days there after giving birth, she wanted to go back. The Swift Current resident called Community Health seeking help, but they couldn’t book her in for an appointment for a week. Not knowing what she would do over the course of a week, she went to hospital. There, doctors recommended she go home and take some antidepressants. When she asked the nurses if she could breastfeed on antidepressants, they told her to look it up on the Internet. Eventually, LaForge, who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke and gets regular exercise, got in to see her family doctor, who put her into the mental health ward to seek treatment. “It wasn’t an easy journey to get the help that I needed,” said LaForge, who stayed in the hospital for six weeks while receiving treatment for her severe case of postpartum depression. While on this journey to get help, LaForge wanted to make sure the Cypress Health Region learned how difficult it was for her to receive treatment. So, she wrote a letter to the region explaining everything she went through as well as making recommendations for how to improve the system, including creating a support group of moms who are dealing with postpartum depression. The region took LaForge’s letter to heart and, combined with a federally-mandated initiative for regions to implement maternal mental health programs, now mandates every new mother is screened for postpartum depression. Karen Thames, the Cypress Health Region’s child and youth psychologist, believes this initiative will be beneficial for mothers, but also families in general, especially since one in five women suffer from postpartum depression. “Untreated maternal mental health problems have serious emotional, social, physical and economic

impact on entire families,” said Thames. “If the mother is depressed, she’s not always there for the child. The child doesn’t have language to comprehend and understand what’s going on so there’s a subconscious residual that ‘Mom’s not responding to my need’ and the level of anxiety goes up for the child. “Also, partners of depressed mothers are vulnerable to depression themselves. It’s kind of that nasty syndrome of ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you and I don’t know how to fix it,’ so that implies a sense of helplessness and that’s one of the entry levels to feel depressed yourself. To not be able to resolve your sweetheart’s issues can lend itself to you taking it on.” In order to implement this new program, a lot of education is needed for staff. The Cypress Health Region has talked to nurses about how important it is to screen new mothers and mothers-to-be with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It’s a self- assessment questionnaire which may be given by a nurse or taken home by the new mothers. The assessments are available at every public health clinic in the Cypress Health Region. The region is also making sure mothers with postpartum depression will be able to see a counselor in five days or less. If a woman is diagnosed with postpartum

depression, or if spouses or family members report it, a mental health worker or social worker will become involved in the situation. The Cypress Health Region went one step further with the program by listening to LaForge’s request and creating a support group for new mothers who are being treated for postpartum depression. Thames and LaForge are both hopeful this new group will help break down the stigma surrounding postpartum depression. “One of the real problems about women coming

forward with this issue is there’s a lot of shame and embarrassment and guilt around not feeling overjoyed that you’ve given birth to a new life. It should be the happiest time for everyone

involved, but if a mother is experiencing maternal depression symptoms, (they feel) it’s kind of frowned upon. “The stigma is the big issue. This support group is

really to help get rid of the stigma and normalize the issue as this mandate is coming down.”

PRAIRIE POST - Friday, September 9, 2011 - 5 Postpartum screening a priority for Cypress Health

Photo by Chris Jaster

Karen Thames, a psychologist with the Cypress Health Region, has a conversation with a mom in her office.

The support group was created in the summer. It has not been as well attended as Thames had hoped, but she thinks it may pick up this fall. LaForge, who is still recovering from postpartum

depression over a year and a half after giving birth, notes one of the challenges of attending the support group meetings is finding a babysitter for her children. She believes it is worthwhile, however, as it is helpful. She is also appreciative of the work the Cypress Health Region has done to identify women who have postpartum depression and to help them receive treatment. “I’m in favour of what they’re doing,” she said.

“They’re educating doctors because doctors aren’t fully aware of it. They’re trying to get assessment protocols put in at the clinics and people who are dealing with women and children to assess them at intervals after postpartum.We have a midwife who is amazing.We’re really starting to get the resources to support the women. “I’m excited about it because there a lot of women who are living behind a smiling mask.”

Leader’s Andreas is Sask.’s inspirational voice BY JESSI GOWAN —

Leader native Lacey Andreas is Saskatchewan’s Inspirational Voice for Multiple Sclerosis in 2011. Diagnosed seven years ago at the age of 19, Andreas has worked hard to maintain an active schedule and stay positive even while dealing with the symptoms of her condition. “My diagnosis really made me put my health into perspective,” Andreas explained. “I never really got to have a crazy party life like other 19-year-olds. And I look at other people differently now, because you just never know what they are going though. I have definitely become more compassionate.” On a day-to-day basis, Andreas struggles with symptoms including fatigue, heat sensitivity, and headaches. She has learned to slow down and listen to her body more, and has found ways to manage her daily physical symptoms through yoga, acupuncture, and visiting a chiropractor. “All of these things go hand-in-hand to keep me feeling good,” she said. “Even when I don’t have stress, I try to prevent it and stay calm and when my body is stressed out, it feels so great to go to the chiropractor.” Occasionally, Andreas’ physical symptoms are

more severe. Although some people with MS consider the regular fatigue and muscle stiffness to be ‘sick’, Andreas really only feels ‘sick’ when she needs medical attention. Fortunately, she has only been to the hospital a handful of times since her diagnosis in 2004. “When I was first diagnosed, it was because of vision loss,” Andreas explained. “The symptoms you get and how sick you are really are determined by where the lesions are in your brain, and mine are in the optic centre. I am fortunate that it’s just my eyes and not my mobility, but it’s hard because you can’t really do anything when you can’t see.” For the last year, maintaining her ability to see has been a challenge for Andreas. She will lose her

It can be discouraging, but Andreas strives to keep a positive attitude. “It’s a lot harder to be positive when you’re sick,

Photo submitted

Lacey Andreas stands with Aaron Solowoniuk from Billy Talent at a MS Camp where they both volunteer.

vision for a month, have it back for a month, then have triple vision for several weeks, and then back to normal vision. It’s a cycle of frustration she had a difficult time breaking. “The first year and a half after I was diagnosed, I

didn’t take any medications,” said Andreas. “I had no energy, and was always cramping up, so after I got sick the second time,my neurologist put me on an injection only once a week. It was less intrusive and worked well for me at the time, but since I’ve been sick so much lately with my eyes, I am going to be starting a new drug in a few weeks. This one I will have to take every day, so it will be a big change for me.”

Change is something you have to get used to when

you have MS, Andreas admitted. When you think you have your symptoms understood and managed, something new will pop up.

but I don’t think it’s possible to really be positive until you’ve hit rock bottom and realize what’s going on,” she said. “I’ve accepted it, and I haven’t really let it hold me back in life. It’s OK to get mad, it’s OK to ask why, and it’s OK to just break down and cry, but you can’t dwell on it because there’s just nothing you can do.” For Andreas, staying active with the MS Society in Saskatoon, as well as with other organizations such as YAMS (Youth Against MS) and volunteering at an Easter Seals MS Camp in Perth, ON, has helped her deal with the emotional struggles of living with MS. Andreas has had the opportunity to work with some generous people through the organizations as well, including Aaron Solowoniuk, the drummer from the band Billy Talent, who also lives with MS. “The more people that I reach out and touch, the

more it makes me feel like maybe there is a reason that I have this, after all,” she noted. “I am very involved with the MS Society here in Saskatoon, and the more I do for them, the better I feel. They have even started sending young people with MS to talk to me, so that I can help them out with some peer support. And it’s really helpful for me, too.”

Her hometown community of Leader has been another huge support for Andreas. For the last six years, Andreas and her team of 20 to 30 people have walked in the MS Walk, and with the support of the people in Leader, they have raised more than $70,000 on their own. “It’s at the point where we don’t even have to ask,

everyone just knows when it’s time for the MS Walk and they are so willing to donate,” said Andreas. “I’m so fortunate to be from that small town — it’s like being part of a huge family, and the people there are just so amazing. It’s easy to stay upbeat when you see that kind of support.”

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