Mental struggles inspire regional health support

Mental struggles inspire regional health support


Life & Style
HELP REQUIRED: RDWA Rural Health Award winner Zelma Tolley, Port Lincoln, said new mothers living in rural areas needed to be supported. Photo: BRAD TOLLEY

HELP REQUIRED: RDWA Rural Health Award winner Zelma Tolley, Port Lincoln, said new mothers living in rural areas needed to be supported. Photo: BRAD TOLLEY

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Zelma Tolley knows what it feels like to suffer with post-natal depression, and is using her own story to support new mothers and their support circles, with an emphasis on helping women in rural areas.

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Port Lincoln's Zelma Tolley is all too aware of the power of sharing experiences to ensure others know they are not alone.

Following her own battle with post-natal depression in mid-2015 after the birth of her first child Cadence, Zelma was inspired to develop The Postnatal Project in early 2016, an online movement to support new mothers and their support circles, with an emphasis on helping women in rural areas.

"I've had people say that I've saved their life, and that's massive," she said.

"I think people appreciate that I didn't just recover and go back to living my life, I've actually talked about how I did so, and articulated that in a way that brings hope."

Zelma is a trained social worker, and as she recovered, set about planning to offer more of her skills to assist new mothers.

This included the launch of her highly successful ebook Mama, Let's Be Honest, in August last year, which focuses on dealing with post-natal depression and has been downloaded locally and across the world.

I think people aren't even sure if they're depressed, they just think that that's what motherhood is like. - ZELMA TOLLEY

"I tried to keep it quite broad, just focus on day-to-day struggles and tips to keep yourself well," she said.

She is also in the process of setting up a face-to-face support group in Port Lincoln.

Zelma and husband Brad were living in the southern Eyre Peninsula town of Wanilla when she gave birth, and moved to Port Lincoln six months later to be closer to family and support.

"I was so excited to raise our kids [in Wanilla], but it's just one of those things that hits you like a tonne of bricks when you have a baby, you don't realise how much you need people around you," she said.

Zelma recognised the panic attacks and bouts of anxiety she experienced soon after her daughter's birth were not normal, but she said other mothers were perhaps unable to detect warning signs.

"I think people aren't even sure if they're depressed, they just think that that's what motherhood is like," she said.

Zelma said the services she required were not available even in Port Lincoln, and there needed to be a "culture shift" to ensure new mothers living in the area, as well as more remote towns such as Wanilla, felt supported and able to seek help.

"There's definitely an expectation that you can just do it all, because your mum did it, and your grandmother did it, and if you're struggling it must be something to do with you, not the system, especially living regionally where we don't have a lot of services that are appropriate," she said.

You deserve to be well. - ZELMA TOLLEY

She said the 'everyone-knows-everyone' nature of country towns also acted as a barrier to many women seeking help.

"You could run into [your psychologist] at the supermarket straight after your session, and that can be really confronting for some people," she said.

The advice Zelma had for new mothers was simple: act on your instincts.

"Trust your gut and advocate for yourself, and if you can't, reach out and find someone who will, because you deserve to be well," she said.

Details: Visit thepostnatalproject.com

YOUNG ADVOCATE DELIVERS MESSAGE TO PARLIAMENT

NEW IDEA: Zelma Tolley founded The Postnatal Project to support new mothers and their support circles. Photo: ROBERT LANG

NEW IDEA: Zelma Tolley founded The Postnatal Project to support new mothers and their support circles. Photo: ROBERT LANG

ZELMA Tolley's battle with post-natal depression has led her to advocate for support for new mothers living in rural areas, an effort that won her the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency Rural Health Award in May.

"It was really unexpected, but it was good to be acknowledged in that way," Zelma said.

She founded The Postnatal Project to support those suffering with post-natal depression, especially in rural areas.

Her work to set up The Postnatal Project took her to Parliament House in February, where she gave a presentation about the need for holistic services in regional areas as part of the ABC Heywire Trailblazers program.

"Pitching to Parliament about The Postnatal Project and the needs of the community that I feel so passionate about was really rewarding," she said.

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"A lot of the people within the crowd, some quite high up in government, had no idea of the waiting lists and the unique challenges that we face in terms of distance and appropriate treatment options and [my presentation] was really eye-opening for them.

"It was satisfying for me to get that important message across."

Zelma encouraged anyone seeking help for post-natal depression to call Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia, which supports women, men and families affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood.

Details: Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia 1300 726 306

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