Becoming a new mother can be challenging — and at times even leave you feeling isolated — but add in things like postpartum depression and anxiety, or other perinatal mental health challenges, and it can be downright terrifying.
Knowing you’re not the only one experience those feelings can go a long way, which is why Patricia Tomasi and Jaime Charlebois, co-founders of Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative have worked tirelessly over the last 12 months to compile stories from individuals all across the country sharing their own perinatal mental health experiences and struggles and bring them all together to create their new book You Are Not Alone.
“We really feel that stories are going to be the way to change and improve perinatal mental health care in Canada. To actually understand what someone has gone through by reading their own words is really powerful,” said Tomasi, a Barrie mother who herself struggled with severe mental health issues after the birth of both her daughters.
Tomasi told BarrieToday their goal was to put together a collection of stories about different aspects of perinatal mental health — from pre-conception through to miscarriage and beyond. The book contains chapters and stories surrounding the fear many have surrounding getting pregnant, issues experienced when pregnant, stillbirth, as well as postpartum anxiety or depression — the whole spectrum of perinatal mental health.
“We wanted to shine a light on this through stories of people who have actually gone through it,” she said.
Not only did they want the book to spark change, they also wanted it to serve as a companion for anyone experiencing a perinatal mental illness, by letting them know, as the title indicates, that they are in fact not alone.
Along with many first-person and lived experience stories, the book, which is currently available online here — not only features first person and lived experience stories, it also contains evidence-based information from experts on the different aspects of perinatal mental health and mental illness.
“We have an expert weighing in on anxiety and scary thoughts, another explaining the basics of what perinatal mental health is, as well as psychotherapy, postpartum anger, etc. We really wanted it as a learning tool as well,” she said.
Tomasi and Charlebois initially put the call out for submissions last fall, and were overwhelmed with the response they received, with Tomasi noting they could have written multiple books. They are considering creating a series with the submissions that didn’t make the first book.
“Writing your story is so powerful. It’s not only healing for a person going through perinatal mental illness to read someone else’s story and know they are not alone, but it’s powerful just to write your own story,” she said. “Each author really went through a healing process of their own, being able to write what happened to them.
"As a former journalist, I am all about stories. I think they are the most impactful tool we have to make change.”