Sask. healthline helps mothers' 'darkest moments' of postpartum depression

Maria Moheno-Garcia’s biggest wish was to be a mom but the stress of caring for a premature new-born turned out to be too much at times.

Women in need can call 24/7 for free

Regina mom Maria Moheno-Garcia said HealthLine 811's Maternal Wellness Program has completely changed her life. (CBC)

Maria Moheno-Garcia's biggest wish was to be a mother but the stress of caring for a newly born, premature baby turned out to be too much at times.

Moheno-Garcia didn't realize she was suffering with anxiety until her baby was six months old.

Since her son was born, she had been incredibly focused on him growing and thriving, to the point where doctors were assuring her he was reaching all the right milestones.

"When I was able finally to relax, that's when I collapsed," she said.

I honestly felt like a terrible mother- Maria Moheno-Garcia

A nurse noticed Moheno-Garcia's symptoms when she took her son in for booster shots. The nurse referred her to the HealthLine 811's Maternal Wellness Program.

"I honestly felt like a terrible mother," said Moheno-Garicia. "I realized I was not supposed to be suffering that way or feeling that way."

The HealthLine is open to Saskatchewan women suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety, or facing loss after a miscarriage or stillborn.

Calls were scheduled with Moheno-Garcia every week during the evening, when her husband was home to look after her son. Between the set times, she would call them when she felt down.

"Sometimes I would call them two or three times a week," she said. "I would always hang up the phone feeling a little bit more like I could do this."

For others dealing with similar struggles, Moheno-Garcia said to remember that the anxiety or depression doesn't define you as a person or a mother. 

"They can help you through your darkest moments."

She urges mothers in need to reach out for help, despite the stigma.

"Getting in touch with HealthLine and the Maternal Wellness Program was a blessing to me and to my family, and it was life changing actually," she said.

"It is a fantastic resource that I would recommend to every single mom out there who is going through a rough patch with depression or anxiety because it is a safe place to call."

Test run leads to expansion

The province-wide expansion of HealthLine 811's Maternal Wellness Program was announced as part of World Maternal Mental Health Day on May 3.

As in Moheno-Garcia's case, public health nurses screen women for depression and anxiety at the postnatal visit, and the two- and six- month child health clinics. 

Those who are at risk of or experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, or suffered a loss during pregnancy are offered a referral to the Maternal Wellness Program.

A HealthLine Registered Psychiatric Nurse or Social Worker calls the client at a time that works for them to conduct assessments and offer support.

"Our clinicians provide emotional support, coping strategies and information on resources in the community," HealthLine Director Roberta Wiest said.   

The Maternal Wellness Program provides support to clients until they can see their primary care provider or a mental health clinician, or when the client shows improvement and support is no longer needed.

The program first took off as a pilot project in Cypress and Kelsey Trail health regions in 2013, and has since expanded province-wide.

Between March 2016 and March 2017, it served more than 360 clients.

Anyone with a physical or mental health concern can call HealthLine 811 for advice at anytime. The service is available 24/7, and is free and confidential.