Paula Neshausen volunteered with Mothers Helpers after several years of being on the Board of Perinatal Mental Health New Zealand and volunteering with helping mothers in Gisborne struggling with Postnatal Depression. Her passion has her volunteering up to 20hrs/week while juggling study, a small business and a family and her own small “zoo” of much-loved fur babies! She brings a ton of management skills with her, her knowledge in the clinical psychology field plus personal experience – we are so very lucky to have her. Paula is currently transitioning into the role of Service Co-ordinator, taking over from founder Kristina Paterson in the new year. Paula talks about why she’s chosen to volunteer with Mothers Helpers…
“Hi! I’m Paula, partner to Jason, and Mama to Alissa (aged 9), Aliyah (aged 8) and Dwight (aged 6) and full time Step Mama to Zaden (aged 12). I am very honoured to be the General Manager of Mothers Helpers. Despite the nifty title I am a Volunteer and proud of it! Maternal Mental Health is something I am intensely passionate about after having my own very long and painful Maternal Mental Health journey. After my youngest was born I suffered Post-Partum Psychosis, and basically lost two years. I was, for the most part catatonic, and what memories I do have of that time are forced, basically I took lots of photos and notes to go with those photos, and once you look at them long enough and read the notes enough, your mind kind of tricks itself in to believing they are memories of the actual event. During that time I also had multiple rounds of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) better known as Electric Shock Treatment, which was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.
“I have been well for just on 5 years now, I still suffer from anxiety from time to time, especially in group situations and of all places – the Supermarket! I am acutely aware of my mental health these days, and it is something I will need to be mindful of for the rest of my life. But I have the support of a wonderful partner and some amazing friends. The reason I Volunteer is that if I can help just one person to not have to experience what I went through, the way you are treated and isolated even further, and help them see that it really is a journey you can come out the other side of, then that would be amazing beyond words.
“Another motivator for volunteering with Mothers Helpers is to be a voice, a very loud one, and try and get Perinatal Distress and Depression talked about, rather than whispered about. The stigma of my experience still to this day follows me, some Doctors will read in my medical records what happened and sadly the majority of time they will make their mind up that there is nothing medically wrong with me, and that it is all in my head. I had a Doctor refuse to treat me for what was obviously a serious medical issue until a Psychiatric Evaluation was completed. Not only is that humiliating it is just wrong. We need to stop the stigmatism and educate people about PND and Maternal Mental Health.
“I feel very honoured to be part of Mothers Helpers, and whilst my role is voluntary, it is something that I give my all to, because I do not believe there should be a “just” in volunteering – there is no such thing as “just” a volunteer.”
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year, the theme is “Give”:
Your time – te wā ki a koe, your words – ō kupu, your presence – ko koe tonu.
The Mental Health Foundation says: “Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connection with the people around you. It feels good to give and everybody has something to offer. How will you play your part?”