More than 80 people are expected to lace up their walking shoes in Barrie on May 4 in support of World Maternal Mental Health Day.
Candace Thomas serves as a social-media ambassador for the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (CPMHC), a non-profit organization working to improve perinatal mental health care in Canada. She is leading the Barrie event, which will serve as the fourth annual walk to raise awareness for World Maternal Mental Health Day.
This year, the walk is being dedicated to Flora Babakhani, a single mother from Toronto who took her own life on Jan. 14, 2022 after struggling with post-partum psychosis following the birth of her daughter, Amber, just over two months before.
“We always think these things happen far away from us, but Flora is from Toronto and her good friends live in Orillia. She is connected between here and there. It just felt like it really hit home when we are connected to this person in some way," Thomas told BarrieToday.
Post-partum psychosis typically only occurs in one or two women out of 1,000, Thomas said.
“It is the most extreme out of the spectrum and there’s such a deficient amount of resources that she didn’t have access to. She went undiagnosed and untreated — and (just days) before she was scheduled to see her doctor to see about getting help she ended up taking her own life,” she said. “We are walking to raise funds for Flora’s daughter and her family.”
Flora’s sister ended up adopting Amber, but she is about to have a baby of her own, Thomas said.
“The family needs all the help they can get," she added.
Thomas had initially set a fundraising goal of $1,000, but the Barrie team quickly exceeded that and has already raised $6,720. They have also received $8,000 in sponsorships. Nationally, the goal is to raise $50,000. To date, participants across Canada have already raised more than $31,000.
“We have kind of smashed our goal (in Barrie) and I think we are just going to keep going,” she said, adding the amount of support in the Barrie community is beyond what she could have hoped for. “After all we have been through in the last two years, I think people really want to show their support for something that has touched all of us.”
Half of the proceeds from the local walk will be donated to Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital to increase capacity within their perinatal mental health program.
“We are trying to raise funds and awareness to say this is an issue we all have been touched by in some way, whether you are a mother — a birthing person — or not," Thomas said. "To start bringing funding in order to have these programs, and increasing the amount of resources in our own community, is really important to me and all of the people who have donated and who are coming to the walk.
"We want to do more than just say ‘this is an issue’. We want to prove to people that we are following up our words with our actions," she added.
The event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 4 from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Meridian Place in downtown Barrie. For more information, including how to join the Barrie team or to make a donation, click here.