Yesterday I started a 3-part series on how to create and sustain postpartum depression support groups. Today we continue with part 2, with tips from Wendy Davis.

Wendy Davis, Program Director of PSI and founding directorof Oregon’s Baby Blues Connection

First let me say that anyone who wants to start a support group should feel welcome to contact PSI to get ideas, materials and support. They can write or call me or their area PSI coordinators. They might also consider becoming a PSI member, or a volunteer, so they can receive training and support, and connect with other people facilitating groups and networks.

Most postpartum support groups struggle at some point with low attendance. However, those of us who have led groups continue to feel rewarded, even if the groups are small. We know that the existence of a supportive place to gather is essential, even if there are one or two people who come.

The first and most essential step to creating a consistent group is to make good connections in your community — with OB and pediatric providers, moms’ groups, families, public health, faith communities, hospitals, and other childbirth professionals. Find like-minded people who want to develop this network together. Make sure that your own knowledge and support system match your zeal to provide support to other women. Read Jane Honikman’s books, “Step by Step” and “I’m Listening”, and the companion book, the PSI Guidebook to Developing a Perinatal Support Network in Your Community. The guidebook has lots of ideas about sustaining warmlines and support groups and an appendix with samples from 11 different groups.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from PSI and Jane Honikman is that no warmline or postpartum depression support group can thrive without being connected with its surrounding community. It is from your own community that you will find supporters, referrals, resources, funds, and of course the families who need you. Sometimes people want to start a group and feel intimidated by “creating a network,” but it can be as simple as making calls to introduce yourself, having brief meetings, or bringing your fliers to providers and explaining what you’re doing.

Here are some other tips, once you’ve connected with others in your area:

  1. Create written materials to announce your group, and share with them providers and on bulletin boards. Have a telephone number people can call to ask questions about the group and put them on your written material.
  2. Talk to people on the phone before they come to group and after their first one, so they have a personal connection and can discuss concerns.
  3. Create group guidelines and follow up procedures so members feel secure about group process. Check in with group members between group meetings.
  4. Post it
  5. Go back out and talk to providers, hospitals, moms’ groups, dads’ groups, childbirth educators.
  6. Get a little article in your local newspaper or parenting magazine.
  7. Offer free chocolate and free magazines.
  8. Consider finding somebody to donate childcare services where you meet.
  9. Link on websites for local parenting resources.
  10. Make sure your PSI area coordinator knows about your group.

Thanks Wendy! Watch for part 3 tomorrow!

Photo credit: © Cheryl Casey – Fotolia