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PANDA week – Josie from Smiling After PND
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PANDA week – Josie from Smiling After PND

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We spoke to Josie from Smiling After PND, an amazing project working to reduce the shame and stigma associated with postnatal depression and raise awareness of it in the process. Josie suffered severe and debilitating PND with her son Leo, to the point that she was contemplating suicide. It took reaching that scary low for her to seek help as the shame around what she was feeling had kept her from reaching out before that. You can read her very honest account of her experiences here

Once she had sought help from her GP and a psychiatrist and had recovered to a point that she felt comfortable talking about her story, Josie found that there was a gap in the peer work space.

“We’re able to get professional help from psychologists and psychiatrists, but it’s valuable also to be able to get help from someone who’s been through it, as they have the capacity for a more compassionate, empathetic conversation. I couldn’t find anyone who was doing that so I decided to do it.”

In 2015, she created a simple Wordpress blog and started to write about her experiences. She found the response from other women to be phenomenal. Over the last five years, she has seen a huge shift in the conversation around PND and mental health and is excited to continue driving change in this space.

“Starting the blog coincided with me becoming a community education volunteer for PANDA. Prior to my own experience I didn't even know what PANDA was but by working as a volunteer for them, I have been able to share my story with new parent group and community organisations to raise awareness and start conversations. The positive response to me doing that was amazing. It meant my story became a hopeful one, rather than one mired in shame.

“The changes I’ve seen over the years include a change in the way screening happens in both public and private hospitals; health nurses and obstetricians are more across it and some hospitals even have perinatal midwives at the hospital who are focused on mothers’ mental health and wellbeing. I think women are also more open to talking about their experiences now.

“The pandemic this year has meant more money is being pumped into mental health care services which is great, but there’s a lot of advocacy work to be done to make sure some of this is directed towards mothers. Society still has this expectation that mums have it all together and you’re somehow seen as less of a mum if you don’t. We desperately need to change that perception because we can’t get funding for services if there’s an idea that these problems don’t exist.”

Advocating for women is Josie's day job as well her passion. While completing her masters in criminal justice, she is focused on driving down rates of women in the prison system, which has “sky-rocketed over the last few years.” She has written submissions into the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system and has helped local mothers to hold onto their parent groups which some councils put on hold during the worst of the pandemic.

“Motherhood can be an incredibly isolating experience, and this year even more so. We have a lot to learn from this year about the ramifications of isolation and the ways we can provide support to each other, even from afar.”

If this has touched a nerve for you, you can reach out to PANDABeyond Blue or Lifeline. We’d love to hear from you if you have experienced PND or struggles post partum. You can get in touch via our instagram DMs or by emailing hello@notapony.com.au

This week, 8-14 November is PANDA week — an important chance to encourage conversation and raise awareness of perinatal anxiety and depression. While prevalent in society, these issues remain shrouded in 'ickiness' and continue to be difficult to discuss.

Both founders of Not a Pony had their own experiences with post natal depression, which is why we are so focused on elevating mothers, shining a light on sensitive issues, and why the Tired Mama Pack is amongst our core offering. We know first-hand the difference it can make when someone sees your struggle, acknowledges it without judgement, and offers help.

This week we will share our own stories, as well as those of our amazing friends and followers so that we can help reduce the stigma around PND and encourage open and 'ick'-free discussion about mental health. 

5% of all sales this week will be donated to @pandanational to help fund their life-saving work, so if you've been thinking about showing someone some love with one of our prints or packs, this week is a great week to do it!