For the 11,000 kiwi women experiencing perinatal* depression every year, the gaps Ms Paterson refers to is the poor perinatal screening of women for depression, resulting in two-thirds experiencing delayed diagnosis and treatment as well as the lack of funded primary care services beyond prescription medication.
Ms Paterson was one of thousands of women who fall through the gaps every year. 8 years ago during pregnancy and following the birth of her son, she wasn't screened or diagnosed despite experiencing depression and anxiety for 18 months - and she says that the system hasn't improved since then: "You just don't have the ability to really recognise what's going on for you - especially if it's your first baby. You need your LMC to monitor how you're feeling and get you some help when you need it and that's simply not happening." She says even when LMC's identify there is a problem, help comes in either a referral to Maternal Mental Health where 75% of women won't fit their criteria, or a referral to a GP who invariably offers prescription medication since talk therapy is rarely funded.
"We've got to do better," Paterson says: "We can't stand around scratching our heads wondering why our youth suicide is high when we are failing the mothers of these children when they're pregnant and during the first three years of their life where attachment is crucial."
At a pre-election 2017 event, MCAGNZ invited politicians to help plant 8,000 flowers representing the number of women falling through the cracks in the current maternal mental health system. While ACT and National did not attend, Labour, Green and NZ First Parties supported the event and committed to sitting around the table with Maternal Care Action Group after the election to consider the changes they are advocating for. With the commencement of a Mental Health Inquiry, Ms Paterson looks forward to this opportunity and invites all women who have experienced gaps in the maternal mental health sector to join Maternal Care Action Group so their voice and their story can be represented. "Now is the time to speak up and make our voice count. We have a Government who is listening - let's not waste this opportunity. Let's talk about what falling through the gaps has cost us - let's do it for our children and for other women so that they don't have to go through what we went through without adequate support. This is our moment."
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