Postpartum care funding fails to keep up with demand: psychologist

Lisa Gibson was suffering from depression when she killed her children and herself on July 24, 2013, in Winnipeg. The Associated Press

WINNIPEG – Improvements to postpartum mental health care have been made in the year since Lisa Gibson killed her children and herself – but funding hasn’t kept pace with demand, says a Manitoba psychologist.

“The problem is that we do have, with increased awareness, we have bona fide referrals that are coming through, but we don’t have additional resources at this point to support providing this service,” said Dr. Carrie Lionberg of the clinical health psychology program at St. Boniface Hospital.

“We’re hoping to get more resources in place so that we can meet the demands and the needs.”

Gibson drowned her children Anna, 2, and Nicholas, 3 months, in the bathtub at their Winnipeg home before drowning herself in the Red River on July 24, 2013. She was suffering from depression at the time and had sought help at a hospital, Dr. A. Thambiraja Balachandra, Manitoba’s chief medical examiner, said in November.

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“The three deaths were preventable,” a news release from his office said after it finished its investigation.


Steps toward making sure such tragedies are prevented in the future have been taken, Lionberg said.

Awareness has been raised and education is being provided to health-care providers, as was recommended by the medical examiner, she said.

Community-based organizationsa are providing information on services and materials they offer as well, she said.

The health authority is offering more perinatal programs for women and their families and friends as well.

The Winnipeg Birth Centre now has a standing once-a-week session called Coping with Change for any new mom who wants to attend, offers a workshop for family and friends of new moms and includes a session on mental health in its prenatal program, the health authority said.

The Postpartum Depression Association of Manitoba website also offers a wealth of resources, Lionberg said.

However, psychologists such as herself are overwhelmed by demand and place limits on the care they can provide out of necessity, she added.

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She urged those concerned about limited resources to contact Health Minister Erin Selby and their local MLAs about the subject.

“Publicly funded psychology services are extremely limited,” she said.

“If women and their families are concerned about the scarcity of resources or the difficulty accessing resources, they should advocate for increased funding to support increased perinatal health.”

READ MORE: What is postpartum depression?

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