Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
********TRIGGER WARNING *********
I have a heavy heart today. A woman I got to know amongst our Mothers Helpers forum had an accident recently – it is suspected suicide. She is currently on life support and is not expected to make it. A little over a year ago, I had many conversations with her, pleading for her to get some help. She was very resistant to the idea of medication and refused to believe that she needed medication to get better. Many women feel like this who struggle with depression. I was resistant to getting help myself for many months. Depression creeps up on you and often you don’t realise just how bad it is getting because things have not been great for a while. When depression is mild, research tells us it is possible to “beat it” with diet and exercise and therapy. This requires a great deal of effort, though, and there are a couple of symptoms about depression that work against you: low motivation, low energy, and difficulty problem-solving. It will also take longer to recover, and the longer it takes you to recover, the more of an impact it has on you and your family.
I’m not saying that medication is for everyone, but the facts show fairly clearly that once your depression has become moderate and certainly when it’s become severe, your brain is not functioning the way it ought to be – and that needs to be corrected just like there are times when your body has an infection and it can’t fight it by itself and needs the help of some antibiotics. It’s not very different. Neither am I saying that medication is a “cure all.” The reason Mothers Helpers offers a 10 week Postnatal Depression Recovery Course with two one-on-one sessions either side of it is because we recognise and research tells us that treating depression must be holistic to be successful.
When depression gets worse, our ability to problem-solve and make rational decisions reduces quite considerably. If you suffer from depression, this is the reason why you need to ask for help. From my own experience, once depression reaches a certain point it is impossible to get out of that hole without help.
This lovely mother was at the point where it was difficult to reason with her. Her depression was such that she regularly thought of suicide. I tried to say to her “you’re refusing medication at what cost? This might cost you your family, you are likely to get more and more unwell, it might even cost you your life!” She wouldn’t listen. It was so hard to watch things deteriorate for her. A year ago today I learned that she had been admitted to hospital against her will for psychosis – which is the risk we take when our depression goes untreated for so long and gets worse and worse. Today I learned of her (suspected) suicide attempt.
The news is tragic and heartbreaking – especially for her family and young children. I am so sorry that I wasn’t able to get through to her – that she didn’t get treatment earlier.
Mothers Helpers is lobbying government and approaching health services so that we can provide early intervention to mothers before they get severely depressed and hopefully prevent depression from occurring in the first place. My hope is that we will be able to prevent tragedies like this – that we’ll be able to save the lives of these women by providing them with help and support to recover. And that we’ll reduce the impact depression has on their families who suffer too.
If you are struggling with depression/anxiety, please, I urge you to get some help. Mothers Helpers is available to provide you with that help, information and support. In one of our first sessions in our course we talk about medication so that you can make an informed decision.
Take care of yourself – by taking care of yourself, you are taking care of your family too.
If you would like to speak to Mothers Helpers about getting help for your depression, call us on 0800 002 717 or fill in the Request Help form
Christmas can be a tough time for people for all kinds of reasons. If that’s your situation, then you wouldn’t be the first person to discover that there is “no room at the inn” – a certain Saviour had a rocky start to life on Christmas morning with a cattle trough as a bed and his mother had to place her very pregnant self upon a donkey and travel for miles with no midwife attending to her! Whether it’s just that financially you can’t afford to indulge this year or whether it’s that you are spending Christmas alone, it might comfort you to know that there are options available to you where you can spend time celebrating with good people. Here are some options for Christmas Day you might like to consider:
Contact your local Salvation Army or your local churches to find out whether they are providing a free lunch to the community (they often are in locations right across the country), eg. Whangarei Salvation Army
Other free community Christmas meals to people of all ages:
Whanganui/Palmerston North Area
If you know of a free Christmas event happening on Christmas Day 2015 that you’d like to share with us, please contact us and we will add to our list! 🙂
I have experienced Domestic Violence for all of my childhood and a part of my adult life. My father was the most wonderful father you could ever imagine: he was the warm parent – the one with cuddles and tenderness, compassion and empathy. He would participate in my imaginary games, he spent time with me, he championed my successes and came to rescue me when I needed him. He was also the most horrible father you could ever imagine. With a flip of the switch he would become angry and hostile – the words that came out of his mouth to criticise me would aim for my already existing insecurities and he would repeat them over and over for years and years so I would believe them at my very core. His physical abuse of me started at a very young age… as early as I can remember – my first memory was when I was about 5 years old. It was slapping my face till my lip was swollen, it was smacking me with a shoe or an inch-thick stick till I had marks on my legs and body for reasons that didn’t make any sense to me. It was punching my sister in the mouth till she needed stitches. It was terrifying. I never knew from one moment to the next what would happen next with him – he was unpredictable.
It stopped when I was about 11 years old when my mother had the courage to finally stand up to him – in response to her stand against his “discipline” he informed her that she could then raise the children on her own and he wanted no part of it. He closed his bedroom door (where he “worked”) and I had very little to do with him after that even though we still all lived in the same house together.
The abuse returned and became worse when I was a teenager. I was told I was a “filthy bitch” when I had my period, I was a “hussy” when I had two buttons undone on my shirt, my weight was criticised, I was a “good for nothing,” I was “selfish and self-centred,” I was a “horrible person,” I was regularly punched and frequently shamed. I hit back – I was angry – I was no match for him but my retaliation made me feel guilty and responsible. My family never spoke about it – to this day, I believe we went through our own private hell of abuse and the “code of silence” meant that we never knew what went on for another person living in the same house – he seemed to do it behind closed doors in another part of the house to keep the silence. I left home when I was 17 years old – I was so fearful at home and it was just getting worse and worse.
Inevitably, I married a man who is the kindest most beautiful soul you could ever meet… who, with a flip of the switch, becomes an incredibly angry man who will criticise me, put me down, threaten me, put fear into me. He is unpredictable.
The first time he hurt me physically, I was 20 weeks pregnant. Naturally, I developed antenatal anxiety and there is no doubt in my mind that my relationship with my husband had its part to play. We reconciled after about 5 or 6 sessions of marriage counselling at the time of my baby’s birth. I was terrified of giving birth without him and raising a young baby on my own. For the next nine months I had undiagnosed postnatal depression and I was living in an abusive relationship. The second time he hurt me physically, my son was nine months old, I had been diagnosed with postnatal depression and given treatment, and I left him for the last time. I did it because I was scared of him, but I also did it because I had opened a brochure from the Brainwave Trust on the effects of conflict/domestic violence on a baby’s brain and development and the likelihood of his developing learning difficulties, delinquency, mental illness, addictions… Despite my absolute fear and pain of being alone (I had no family support and no close friends I felt I could talk to), I stayed away for my baby.
I am a smart, educated woman with a number of achievements – no one would ever guess at how I am tormented by self-doubt, loneliness, low self-esteem and a lack of resources – I hide all of these things, but these are the things that have kept me going back to him for his help, support, friendship – even though his “flip of the switch” has included death threats, punching me, threatening custody of our child, threatening to report me to CYFs, criticisms and put-downs that target my vulnerabilities and insecurities. I am drawn in by that very nice part of him – the part that the rest of the world gets to see and believes in.
Domestic Violence can be very difficult for any of us to understand… Why does the victim keep returning to the relationship? Why does the perpetrator do this? There is a very good article that I have read here – it was helpful for me to read. I relate to the cloud of confusion that hung over my head after I left him – I felt disoriented: “Am I doing the right thing?” “Is this my fault?” Truth seemed to be so hard to find – his truth sounded a lot more likely than my truth. My family further confused the matter – my mother (naturally) felt uncomfortable talking about it and would ask me “well what did you do [to encite that response]?” My sister-in-law refused to testify in court (obtaining a protection order) a conversation we had when I told her that my husband had threatened to kill me. She also picked me up from the police station after my husband had punched me and I’d given a statement and took me home. The entire journey the conversation was about trivial things that were happening in her and her kids’ lives while I sat profoundly traumatised. It was crazy-making stuff.
Truth can be a very difficult thing to find for someone who is used to emotional/psychological abuse that goes along with physical abuse. If you have never heard of the term gaslighting then it is a term I encourage you to investigate if you are at all interested in understanding the nature of abusive relationships. The term comes from a play and film in the 30’s and 40’s where, in the plot, the husband convinces his wife that she is insane by manipulating small aspects of her environment. Today, the term is used when you allow a person to define your reality. In my case, my husband would distort reality by maximising my faults in a conflict and minimising his own. The faults he would point out would often have truth in them which would help me to believe them. This would result in my believing that “maybe it wasn’t so bad” and “maybe it was at least partly my fault.” Being an alcoholic for most of his life, though he gave up the drinking side of it, he never gave up his skills at blaming other people and remaining a victim himself. And he was extremely convincing as an innocent party – his temper was rarely ever shown in public and rather than charming and smarmy he came across as warm, gentle and humble. My family loved him and found it difficult to believe me.
As the article on Domestic Violence says, my husband firmly believes that he is not responsible for his reactions to me – that I am responsible for them. He sees things in black-and-white. Either he is the monster that I make out that he is, or he is the nice, gentle guy – he could not possibly be both, so he rejects one. There is no question that he is a victim of domestic violence himself, but he cannot acknowledge himself as a perpetrator. In fact, he paints himself as a victim to me. When I hang up the phone because he has told me to shut-up and put me down in front of my son, he accuses my boundary-setting as “controlling.” This is an example of gaslighting – attempting to warp my perspective of reality. When you are engaged with a person like this on a daily basis and you don’t have a strong sense of self-esteem/self-worth, it will drag you into an abusive relationship that is difficult to get out of.
Anger Management programmes don’t have a high success rate. The longer ones have a higher success rate than the shorter ones. This is because it takes a long time for the perpetrator to take responsibility for their behaviour and stop blaming the victim. I also think it may be that some programmes focus on anger being the problem, but just as the Domestic Violence article above states, in fact it is less about anger management as it is about power and control.
I remember having a conversation with one male worker at a domestic violence agency, saying to him “but he’s not really a controlling person” (he wasn’t the classic abusive man who gets jealous or possessive, insists on controlling the money or not letting me go out)… but then the worker reminded me that I was afraid to say “no” to him, because if I ever said “no” to him – at the very least it would result in his anger/temper which I was afraid of, at the very worst, he would follow through on a threat – and that threat would be not returning my son to my care or taking me to court or to CYFs.
After my husband punched me, I called the police. I had fallen to the ground and I remember moaning a gutteral sound that sounded like a wounded animal to my own ears – it felt like emotional pain as much as anything else. I stumbled outside and I called the police and I was hyper-ventilating so much to the operator on the phone I couldn’t complete a sentence: “I can’t breathe!” I told her… I was having a panic attack. When the police arrived, they were initially sympathetic towards me (I was waiting on the side of the road for them to come) but then they went inside to speak to my husband. I was anxious. I knew how clever he was at being calm, collected, reasonable, warm, friendly, co-operative, intelligent… Sure enough, the police returned and took me to the police station where I made a statement, but it was in stoney silence – they believed his story. I was made to feel like the perpetrator. I remember when the policeman went out the back and returned to me waiting in the waiting room, he seemed surprised at my tears that wouldn’t stop streaming down my face. I knew that whatever statement my husband had given him conflicted with what he saw then. My statement was fairly confused and fragmented. I was nursing a headache from the blow to my head and the stress and I was traumatised – so I agreed to questions the policeman asked me (sometimes putting words in my mouth) because I still felt partly responsible for the punches my husband had given me. And the policeman believed that too.
The police never gave me any information for victim support or domestic violence support. After I got home, I felt so confused, disorientated and still had a headache that I telephoned the after hours doctors – the nurse on the phone recommended I go and see the after hours doctor. She never referred me to any social supports either. Neither did the after hours nurse or doctor that assessed me. I didn’t have a concussion it turned out – I was just incredibly traumatised and I had no idea how to process it. Fortunately, I accessed counselling and support from a family violence agency myself.
When I filed for a permanent protection order, my estranged husband filed for custody of our child. It was my absolutely worst fear and sent me a very clear message: “If you stand up to me, I will get you and make you pay – you’ll be sorry…” The affidavits that ensued included statements from himself, his sister, his friend and (what felt like the ultimate betrayal) someone who had stayed in my house. They used every example they could think of to depict me as being both a bad person and a bad mother. This wreaked havoc on my life-long low self-esteem and self-doubt. I was advised well by my lawyer but I even felt her doubt me at times.
The first time I went to court, I was trembling and crying the entire journey into the city. Once I arrived (alone) my lawyer kept asking me if I was okay. The anxiety and fear at losing my child was overwhelming. I sat in the courtroom with no support, unable to stop crying and shaking but trying desperately to get a hold of myself while my husband remained calm throughout the entire process. It was only a fifteen-minute directions meeting and I was to remain silent the entire time. When the lawyer for child stood to address the judge to say that the child’s father had reported that “things had improved lately” in terms of my care of our child, despite myself I started sobbing and had to leave the room. Throughout my pregnancy and even with my postnatal depression I had fought to do what was best for my child and care for him in absolutely the best way I knew – to be described as an unfit mother (as per the affidavits) and to hear people speak about me in this way was for me the worst blow you could ever give me.
Fortunately, my husband never won custody of my son – we now have a parenting order in place. I don’t have a permanent protection order in place but I do have signed undertakings that I can take to court to apply for a permanent protection order should I ever need to. I now keep my distance from my ex-husband. I don’t go to him for friendship or help or support. I am working at increasing my personal resources and social network.
I share this story to enable those who want to understand Domestic Violence better, I share it so that doctors, nurses, police, lawyers, agencies who come into contact with women who are a victim to Domestic Violence make sure that they refer that woman to Domestic Violence support services, and I share it for those women who are a victim of Domestic Violence – perhaps struggling with depression (a common symptom for those in an abusive relationship) who are thinking about getting some help – who are thinking about talking to someone about it or wanting to get out of the relationship.
Happy Single Parents Appreciation Day for yesterday March 21st to all those who have been or you are a single/sole parent, you have by deep admiration and respect.
Read this post we wrote on the stress single mothers experience but just want to also acknowledge the hard work of single/sole parenting of fathers – some of whom are doing it alone and without acknowledgement or support.
Preparing for a Charity Fundraiser for Mothers Helpers, I switched on 1ZB to find that John Kirwan (who is honestly my hero at the moment when it comes to his own mental health and being a spokesperson for mental health) was being interviewed. But what was most astonishing to me was that he was being interviewed by Tony Veitch.
Most of us know that Tony Veitch pleaded guilty in 2009 and was convicted of “Injuring with Reckless Regard” when in 2006 (or thereabouts) he kicked his then-partner Kristin Dunne-Powell causing her spine to fracture in several places. Kristin Dunne-Powell’s injuries were severe enough that she had to use a wheelchair temporarily while she recovered. At the time, Tony Veitch stepped down from all media work that he was doing, but in 2010, 1ZB offered him a position hosting two sports programmes which has continued to this day.
Of course, in the past two years I have been so consumed with my little boy (now 2yrs and 8mths old) and it has to be said that his “I don’t want that one!” cries at the 6pm news make me cave in to his “Little Einsteins” demands. Not to mention the fact that I am yet to read through an entire magazine since his birth, and any newspapers I buy have ended up lining the recycle bin unopened unless I’m fortunate enough to grab a few minutes alone in a cafe… I’m sure you mums understand! So whence the delayed (2 year!) reaction to Tony Veitch’s re-appointment to broadcasting. However, after hearing John Kirwan’s interview by Veitch yesterday, I felt it was important that I write an opinion from the perspective of Mothers Helpers and I have been reviewing the information that has come out since Veitch’s trial including his own interview on Close Up and statements by Anti-Violence campaigners, the ‘It’s Not OK’ campaign and the Mental Health Foundation.
Disclaimer: Many people make the argument that women can be equally as abusive/violent as men and there are cases where women are abusive (more about what is abuse later) towards a man who does not use his physical strength to retaliate. However, in the case of physical abuse, it’s important to mention the physical strength that a man has over a woman – so even if she fights back (and often women do in these situations, which means that she feels “partly responsible” and “just as much to blame”), he has a clear advantage in terms of power, and is able to dominate and intimidate as a result of his strength when matched with a woman. It is that use of domination, intimidation and her subsequent fear and loss of power that causes her to feel vulnerable. But feelings aside, the facts remain that it is his physical strength (when used) that puts her life at risk. For this reason, this article uses the male pronoun “he/him” when describing the abusor.
I watched the Close-Up interview of Tony Veitch and what struck me was how angry and indignant he was. He spoke like a man defending himself. I would suggest that 80-90% of the interview Veitch chose to speak about how difficult the situation had been for him – how the relationship had caused him to become overwhelmingly stressed that led to losing control, that the media had printed lies about him, that he had lost his livelihood, that he had become suicidal. Comparatively, he minimized his own behaviour and the consequences that had for Kristin Dunne-Powell. I would like to pick up some of the points Veitch made in his interview:
The Court Sentence
Veitch was sentenced to nine months supervision, 300 hours community service and a $10,000 fine with the possibility of having to attend a Stop Violence programme should this be deemed necessary by parole officials. Fortunately, parole officials did deem it necessary, but overall I am shocked at this sentence. Veitch had kicked in a woman’s back until it broke, and he literally had 5 hours in jail. What does this say about us as a society in New Zealand that you can assault a woman to the point where you cause such damage as you might threaten paralysis or even death, but at the very least 6 weeks in a wheelchair suffering from spinal fractures, and yet the consequences are a minor fine, and a bit of part-time community services work? I believe that sends a very clear message as to the values in our country when it comes to Domestic Violence, and that we have a long way to go in this campaign. Sadly, the consequences do nothing to help Tony Veitch gain insight or accept responsibility. Comparatively, here is the testimony of Kristin Dunne-Powell of what she has had to endure as a result of the incident: Kristin’s Statement
Apparently, as part of his defense, Veitch had sought a number of character references including those from Susan Devoy and Dave Currie. It has since come out that those people were led to believe that they were providing these references for a passport application, however Veitch used them in court as testimonials to get a lighter sentence.
Return to Public Profile
Believe me, I am all for second chances when that person has hand-on-heart taken responsibility by acknowledging fault and taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again – however, this is not the case for Tony Veitch. Within a year of sentencing 1ZB had given Veitch a sports hosting position and he returned to the public eye. When a person is in the public eye, they are being held up as a representative not just of the company but in this case, NZ Radio and New Zealand itself. This was the argument given for suspending and forcing Paul Henry’s resignation when he made some offensive racial remarks. Personally, I didn’t think his remarks warranted that kind of action, but suffice to say that we seem to take racial ‘jokes’ more seriously than we do domestic violence. No matter which way you see it, for those that listen to his sports shows – and let’s face it, New Zealand loves their sport – Tony Veitch is a kind of role model in such a public position. We have to ask ourselves, if experts in Anti-Violence are less than convinced that Tony Veitch has taken sufficient responsibility for his actions of assault and violence, why then would we herald him as a sports commentator for our country? And again, what does that say about the values in our society when faced with 120 reported cases of Domestic Violence in Auckland alone – bearing in mind that these are only the ones that are reported.
There have been reports of 3 or 4 suicide attempts by Tony Veitch. His attempts were not following the assault on Kristin Dunne-Powell, but following public scrutiny and legal action. Each of them were dramatic and involved Police searching for his whereabouts, helicopter searches and so on. Therefore, each have been reported by the media. In light of the fact that I represent “Mothers Helpers” and we help mothers that are at-risk of depression or suffering from it, and believe whole-heartedly that suicide is not the solution, I will not seek to make light of these attempts. My only comment is to suggest that Tony finds a different way to seek help.
What I Would Like to See
I would like to see Tony Veitch take up the offer from the Mental Health Foundation to work with them in offering him support to accept responsibility for the violence in his past (and ongoing issues), to work on changing patterns of behaviour, and to become a role model to others caught in a cycle of abuse (often victim and perpetrator) to get help so they can change it. Only then would I support Tony Veitch returning to a prominent role in media as sports commentator. If you choose to work in the public eye, it’s important that you represent New Zealand well and without that obvious change in heart and in attitude, it should not be given to you.
I would encourage anyone to boycott his sports programme on 1ZB for this reason, and I’m surprised at John Kirwan for appearing on his show.
Are You OK?
If you are in a violent relationship or you know someone who is, there is help, information and support available to you. Click here for more information on getting help.
If you are worried about your own depression, your stress levels and uncontrollable anger/emotions, and how that is affecting you, your baby or your family – or you’re worried about your own safety or the safety of the children in your care, please Contact Us. For urgent 24hr phonecall assistance contact Lifeline.
Accomplishments and Thanks
This is the time of year where it’s good to look back and see all that has been accomplished. Mothers Helpers registered as a Charity in May of this year so that we were official! We also established three Board members: Kristina Paterson (Chair), Amanda Donald (Treasurer) and Asha Ines. We hope to nominate also Onur Yilmaz to our Board who has a GM position with a large corporation and has been volunteering his expertise and help with things like recruitment, marketing, contacts and funding applications. Amanda has been busy assisting with funding applications, administration, keeping of accounts and budget projections. And Asha has been lending her time to our Networking meeting. Kristina has been busy in overseeing the whole of Mothers Helpers including receiving and responding to referrals, visiting mothers and providing an assessment, referrals and follow-up as well as co-ordinating and recruiting our volunteers. Our thanks to each of our Board members for the work that they do voluntarily and our congratulations to Amanda who had baby girl Cassidy Elaine at 3.9kg on 10th December!
I’d also like to acknowledge the following people for their help that they have offered to us voluntarily:
Karen Rouse – administration help earlier in the year and assisting with Charity registration
Erin Taylor – help with administration and work on the website
Alex Carter (Spruce Ltd) – graphic design help and designing the website virtually from scratch including all the bells and whistles that go with that!
Gavin McQuoid & Panprint Labels – supplying printing of 1000 brochures, 1000 fliers and 500 business cards free of charge!
Altezano Cafe – all coffee supplies for our “Mumspace Cafe” earlier in the year
Digital Spot Printing – printing of “Mumspace Cafe” fliers
West Wave Aquatic Leisure Centre supporting our “Mumspace Cafe”
Shore City Elim for providing a faithful volunteer for one of our mums
Lucy Reade (Life Coach) – for providing her services free of charge to all our volunteers in support of what we do
and the many others who volunteered their time, money and skills for the benefit of “Mumspace Cafe” and “Mothers Helpers”
Special thanks to for all those who participated in the Networking Meeting ‘Mothers Helpers’ hosted for all those involved in ante-natal/post-natal maternity services from community agencies through to hospital services. It was a very successful event and we look forward to future meetings so that we can improve our referral processes and our services to women and their families.
Our most important accomplishment of course, is the work that we have been able to do with our mums in assisting them recover from postnatal depression or preventing them from experiencing it through our practical help and support. This was made possible because of every one of the volunteers, helpers and donators above.
Where to From Here?
In 2012 ‘Mothers Helpers’ hopes to start cafes in various locations around Auckland one day per week for each location where mums with postnatal depression or at-risk of postnatal depression can drop in for coffee, support and a chat. We would like to be able to provide a free creche so mums can have some time out, a foodbank and clothing swap service, divorce recovery and parenting workshops and one-on-one assessments for those wanting practical help from ‘Mothers Helpers.’
We would also like to continue the work that we are doing providing at-risk mothers with adequate support. In order to do this, we need to be successful with our funding applications, donations from those that are able to give to this cause, partnering churches to supply the venue and take up the opportunity to help mothers, and we need volunteers.
If you would like to help in any one of these areas above, please contact us.
Merry Christmas, God bless you and keep you safe over this holiday period,