About six weeks after the birth of her daughter in 2009, Rachelle Nieman wasn’t feeling like her regular self.

Rachelle Nieman, pictured with her daughter, says myths and stereotypes must be broken to increase acceptance and knowledge about postpartum depression.

“I didn’t want to sleep or eat and there were days where I would have several crying episodes,” Nieman says.

When her doctor diagnosed her with postpartum depression (PPD), Nieman’s reaction was mixed. “I was a bit in denial and actually felt a little embarrassed.” Nieman was prescribed low-dose antidepressants and when she was seeking therapy options she discovered Saskatoon Health Region’s Postpartum Depression Support Program.

“The program offers a weekly facilitated support group, telephone support and referrals for private counselling as needed,” explains Helen Irwin, clinical coordinator for the Region’s Healthy and Home program and facilitator for the Postpartum Depression Support Program. “At the support group, women are able to share feelings and experiences with others who understand in a safe and supportive environment, as well as discussing self care and new information. Such support assists the women to move through their depression and return to a feeling of well-being.”

The group introduced Nieman to the fact that postpartum depression is a real syndrome. “It helped me to know that there were others like me in Saskatoon that were living with this too. They reinforced for me that postpartum depression isn’t anyone’s fault. It doesn’t make you a bad mother.”

The PPD Support Group was so important to Nieman that she decided to organize a fundraiser for the group this year to generate more awareness about postpartum depression. In April, Nieman raised $1,500 through a steak night with a 50/50 draw and door prize draws. This was the first fundraising event for the group and Nieman hopes to continue the event annually.

“Celebrities like Brooke Shields can talk about their PPD experiences and shed some light on the subject for a little while but the truth is that postpartum depression isn’t talked about enough,” says Nieman. “Too many myths and stereotypes exist around it and it all stems from a lack of knowledge. More events like ours could raise awareness and hopefully increase acceptance and knowledge about postpartum depression.”

With the help of her doctor, family, friends and the support group, Neiman began to feel much better. “Today my gorgeous, healthy daughter is three years old and thriving and I’m happy, healthy and looking towards the future.”

Nieman’s advice to other moms struggling with PPD is to seek out those supports and get the help that’s needed. “No matter how strong of a woman you are, PPD can happen to anyone, so it’s important to talk to someone you trust.” Niemen recommends talking to a doctor, a trusted family member or friend or accessing an employee assistance program. “It is so important to speak about what you’re experiencing because with support, it does get better,” she says. “Postpartum depression shouldn’t be described as women ‘going crazy.’ Every woman is unique and so is their PPD experience.”

The Saskatoon Postpartum Depression Support Program is a community wellness initiative provided by Saskatoon Health Region with support from the Saskatoon Community Clinic. Learn more about the Saskatoon Postpartum Depression Support Program at www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/postpartumdepression/index.htm.