A local mental health professional is working hard to educate and empower mothers about maternal mental health issues.
Guelph-based therapist Jessica VanderWier had always known that she wanted to be a counsellor, what she didn’t know was that she’d eventually become passionate about maternal mental health.
VanderWier graduated from the University of Guelph’s Adult Development, Families and Well-being Program, and went on to complete a Masters in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University.
While completing her Masters and working in behavioural therapy VanderWier discovered that she was pregnant.
“I went on bed rest while 20 weeks pregnant, that’s when my eyes opened. I had no idea the struggles mothers go through until I was dealing with it myself,” said VanderWier, who went on to deliver a healthy full-term daughter, named Emilia.
VanderWier went from months of bedrest to full-time motherhood, and found the adjustment was more difficult than she imagined.
“I felt really isolated and alone, I didn’t have many friends who were having babies. I had so many people saying it looked like I was handling things well, even though in reality I was struggling to make it through every day,” said VanderWier.
It was shortly after Emilia was born thatVanderWier’s husband and mother encouraged her to try starting a blog. She decided to pursue the idea, and began writing on her own personal blog. This past spring VanderWier decided to take her work to a new level, and she rebranded and launched Our Mama Village, a global village for mothers.
VanderWier said that Our Mama Village in a one stop resource for mothers looking for non-judgemental support and resources. She provides education and resources on maternal mental health, but also partners with all types of professionals who serve new moms, from naturopathic doctors, fitness instructors, and nutritionists.
Our Mama Village reaches readers all over the world, but about 30% of readers come from Guelph, said VanderWier.
“Now I’m getting training with Postpartum Support International, and completing a lot of my own training and research in maternal mental health, so that I can be a trained clinician to work with mothers,” she added.
Earlier this spring VanderWier started Giggles Playgroup for mothers, in partnership with Calvary Baptist Church and Five Star Relationships. The drop-in playgroup is for moms and parents of kids ages 0 to preschool aged, and runs every Wednesday at Calvary Baptist Church from 10 am to 11:30 am.
“We want to offer a space for moms to meet with other moms, connect and find support,” said VanderWier.
The program is one of the few drop-in programs that continues to run throughout the summer, and VanderWier has received positive feedback so far. She said there is no agenda, and parents are welcome to come anytime to chat and enjoy conversation, she also says there is opportunity for mothers to chat one-on-one with her to discuss counselling, if they wish.
VanderWier is working to continue the conversation about maternal mental health for women in Guelph and beyond, and will be offering workshops in the fall for new mothers.
“There’s a lot of childbirth courses, but not many postpartum and mental health workshops and groups out there,” said VanderWier.