A South West organisation that provides emotional support for new and expecting mums is seeking ongoing funding.
Radiance Network South West is the only service in the region that runs support groups for mums with perinatal depression and anxiety. It relies on fundraising, small grants and help from local agencies.
Radiance Network South West Coordinator Anne Mackay said Parenting Connection, which gets its funding from non-profit organisation Anglicare WA, is funding Radiance’s Busselton groups for six months. Connect Group, which receives funding from the Mental Health Commission, is temporarily supporting Radiance’s pilot program in Collie. Radiance extends out to these regions because it is needed. Ms Mackay said she got 21 referrals in four weeks from hospitals in Bunbury, Busselton, Collie and Perth.
“We get all the referrals from the Mother and Baby units in Fiona Stanley Hospital and King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth. The social workers from the unit are contacting Radiance to support these mums in the community,” she said.
Radiance Network South West Founder CJ Heins said it’s a big job to run fundraising events, but it is needed. Ms Heins had her own experience with post-partum psychosis and was undiagnosed for twelve weeks because she had no relevant local supports. She now supports mums through Radiance.
“I was in a mother’s group and mums were gliding through motherhood, and it was hard to admit I wasn’t coping. All the mums loved their babies, and I thought I wasn’t normal. I help mums to feel that it’s okay to not love their baby and to normalise how hard motherhood is,” she said.
Radiance Network South West volunteer Libby French was in the Mother and Baby unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital for three months when going through perinatal anxiety and depression. She said Radiance helped her transition home.
“I was in a controlled environment and I had nurses and a psychiatrist every day. It was an adjustment coming home,” Ms French said.
“I went to Radiance each Tuesday. On the bad weeks I could say I don’t feel like talking and they made me a cup of tea. I did mindfulness practice, cooking and self-esteem workshops.”
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, Supported Playgroups training coordinator Mary Edmonds said perinatal anxiety and depression affects 100,000 families across Australia every year.
“One in five expecting or new mums will experience it,” she said.
South West GP Obstetrician Sarah Moore refers several mums to Radiance and said it’s a useful early intervention service.
“In those early days, women are vulnerable. They are learning how to become a mother and bond with their child. If they have other mental health issues, it can be challenging. The earlier women are supported, the less likely they are to become at risk of harming themselves or their baby,” Ms Moore said.
Shadow Minister for Health Libby Mettam, said the state government funds similar programs in Perth, but the same level of support is not available in the South West and so she is pushing for Radiance to get support.
“I will continue to advocate to see this service receive the support it deserves,” she said.
Ms Mackay agreed mums are struggling and Radiance needs to keep going because: “There’s nothing like this in the South West.”