Lisa Hickling = women’s mental health!

At a baby shower for my daughter’s lifelong friend last week, I was surprised at how quickly women remember infants, pregnancies, funny times, challenging times.

With the pull of a ribbon on a package, memories trigger back and group energy is there to catch the thought and cushion the blows.

It used to be, in slower days, when women gave birth to babies (sometimes every year) that there was a community of support there for her. Her mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, neighbours, sisters… the day to day care not only supported the newborn baby, it also cushioned the mom’s emergence into her ‘new normal.’

Today, it’s a lonelier place. Women zip in and out of hospital birth units like a revolving door. A generation ago there was support and celebration as you walked with your room-mate down to look through the huge glass window at the nursery, there were nurses to help with lactation, there was celebratory aura to the place.

What there’s never been a lot of help for is sadness. For the woman who miscarries or who births a stillborn baby, it lasts forever, often hushed, never mentioned by friends or family. They don’t mention the baby, often un-named, because they think they’ll trigger feelings that will cause sadness. Those feelings of loss are always there. And for new moms, hormonal changes after a pregnancy and birth can trigger postpartum depression that conflicts with what she feels she should be feeling.

And that’s why Lisa Hickling Miller maintains her private practice in Barrie. Lisa’s full time work at Royal Victoria Health Care Centre (is that the right new name?) embraces outpatient women’s mental health.

In addition to that, her private practice focusses on perinatal mental health. She’s added to her impressive credentials and life experience by taking programs through Bereavement Ontario and is reaching out to obstetricians, fertility clinics, midwives and doulas, naturopathic doctors, mental health professionals who come in contact with women in perinatal distress. Her commitment, driven by the death of her own first child, and by the community’s limited resources, is to embrace the emotions of both life and loss. “Eighty percent of women experience Post Partum Blues and 10 – 15% will experience Post Partum Depression, with 1 – 2 per 1000 experiencing Post Partum Psychosis,” she says. Maybe you don’t feel connected to your baby, maybe you’re not having the feelings you thought you’d have.

Add to that, sleep deprivation, a colicky baby, the disconnect between what you thought would happen and what is happening… so often the medical solution is medication. But there are alternatives to that, too.

Some of her clients are supported with employee insurance plans or private health plans but others arrive on a fee for service basis, bearing the scars of a crib-death, a still birth, a set of twins with one that lived and one that didn’t… Lisa feels passionately about the potential to grieve, embrace what’s happened, make room for celebration and movement in the family life. The cost to a family of a mom who’s not functioning is enormous.

Lisa points out that today’s women are expected to be it all:  dynamic career women, great mothers, fabulous home-makers, in perfect bodies and all in gracious control. “It’s a false expectation. Women are so isolated today, without that network of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts around to help. I want to create an environment where people can talk about how they’re feeling, to dispel the silent loss of dreams and hopes.”

Lisa remembers the death of her first pregnancy, then the birth of her first child, followed 19 months later by the arrival of twins.  And a subsequent fourth (fifth) child.  Those experiences are the driving force behind her private practice today. (705 791-3662,

“I hope I can help people place this in their life. There’s a process in learning how to feel confident.”

For every woman who ever looked in the bassinet and wondered how she would get through the day… thank you, Lisa!