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Opinion: Mum About Town – More Support For Those With Post-natal Depression

Published on: 9 Apr, 2013
Updated on: 9 Apr, 2013

Mum about TownThe latest of our Mum About Town opinion articles written by “Towny Mummy”. This time she writes about the death of Surrey mum Donna Oettinger and her son Zaki.

Last week I read in the newspaper of the deaths of Donna Oettinger and her son Zaki. It stayed with me for days. A mother, severely depressed, jumped in front of a train with her three-year-old son. It affected me because I thought I too am a mother, I also live in Surrey, I also have a three-year-old son, it shook me because I thought that could have been me or any of us mums.

Since becoming a mum, I have come to believe that there is an unspoken bond that we all share; the common denominator that is motherhood. Whoever we were before we had children, we have now morphed into these excellent copers and troopers, getting up and carrying on after sleepless nights, getting through the day with a headache, entertaining small children with the contents of a handbag while waiting for the doctor or bus, managing to complete the weeks shopping whilst dealing with a toddler in the midst of a tantrum. Having children is wonderful and exhausting, lonely and full-on. There is no let up.

In this tragic story, Donna had been separated from her boyfriend and the father of her son, who was Egyptian, as he couldn’t obtain a visa. She had been living a life in limbo in the UK.

Opinion Logo 2She was on the council list for her own flat but hadn’t been able to get one and had been sharing with her mother since returning to the UK four years ago.

Donna had severe anxiety and had been to the doctor up to 50 times since November a close friend had said.

What must she have been thinking as she stepped out on to the track? It’s just awful that a woman, clearly in need of help turned to that as a last resort. There must have been more that could have been done for her by the NHS and other support groups.

She was crying out for help. The fact that several doctors saw her and could do nothing but prescribe more and more drugs shows that there is something missing.

The answer to problems such as anxiety and depression are deeper than drugs alone. What she needed was more support, surely.

A recent study has shown that the cuts in the number of health visitors was affecting post-natal depression and that if the health visitors had more training in mental health, three in 10 cases could be avoided.

Recently, Dr Dan Poulter said that he was ‘confident’ that the 4,200 more health visitors promised by David Cameron by 2015 would be delivered, even though as yet only about another 800 have been introduced.

Such urgent, frontline care is essential for the welfare of parents and children, from seeing the children in their home environment to supporting the parents and referring them on to other services.

Please Mr Cameron, learn from Ms Oettinger’s tragic example and spend money where we need it the most.

I know a friend who had visits from the health visitor weekly for an extended period until she thought she could cope on her own with her son.

I know another who was visited over the Easter weekend and on Easter day as she was having difficulty breastfeeding her new daughter. And for me personally, there has always been someone there if I needed to chat about my son’s behaviour, his speech difficulties, or my daughter’s lack of sleep.

We need health visitors, but also we need community. Mothers and the world at large keep your eyes open, keep your ears open. Be kind and listen, knock on your neighbour’s door, don’t be in such a rush to get home. We need to catch those who are falling through the net before it’s too late.

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