I recently attended an interesting and lovely event in the Kallio Setlementti building in Sturenkatu about support for families in Helsinki, organised by Silvija Budaviciute of the Helsinki Meditation Group. The purpose of the event was to give information to English speaking foreign women and families in Helsinki about support during the time when they get pregnant, have a baby and cope with the child’s first few years of life. This can be a really stressful period in any woman’s life, but particularly so when living overseas, most likely away from family supports, friends and a familiar language & culture.
First up, Leena Ruskomaa, a social worker and Development Manager at Counselling Center Ne-Rå, spoke about the help that their centre can give families – for example offering help in filling in paperwork and forms, anonymous counselling, and advice on where to go next.
Then Dr. Jane Tuomola, a clinical psychologist, spoke about how to seek help when you suspect you may be experiencing mental health problems related to pregnancy, birth or the first few years of motherhood (such as perinatal depression/Post Natal Depression). She spoke about how there are normal hormonal and psychological changes during these times that can make it a challenging time for all women. She also talked about how mothers often judge themselves harshly when they compare themselves to magazine style images of mothers laughing and enjoying their babies in a clean house – this is certainly not the usual experience for women who are tired, overworked and just coping with looking after the baby and the house, let alone themselves! She also encouraged anyone to seek therapy for treatment and described what a therapy session would look like, and ways to select the right therapist. Jane suggested some general parenting resources in Finland, and some websites in English that might be helpful (see below). And here is more information about perinatal mental health if you need it, from mind.org.uk. In Finland, Mieli, is a good source of help.
The next speaker was Oana Velcu-Laitinen, a skills coach who runs a course called “Reinvent Your Happy Self as New Mom” for mothers in Helsinki who have babies 6 months or younger. She ran the group through a self-compassion exercise. This involved thinking of a recent negative experience, and then discussing it with someone else while evoking the three components of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness.
In the group discussion, many mothers described their frustration in not finding a good mothers’ group to join in Helsinki. In Australia where I am from, for example, each local area organises a mothers’ group for all the mothers of babies born within one or two months of each other. The group then goes through six weeks of meetings with a maternal and child health nurse (neuvola in Finnish) and then they often keep meeting up in each other’s houses, or at parks, playgrounds, and so on, on an ongoing basis. It can be a really great way to get support in this time when women feel so alone coping at home with a baby, or even for the tough transition time when mothers return to work. There is clearly a need for something like this for new mothers in Helsinki, so if anything is organised I will write an update!
Thanks to Silvija Budaviciute for organising the event!
RESOURCES IN FINLAND
Mannerheim League for Child Welfare (also supports mothers/families)
Väestöliitto, the Family Federation of Finland –
Counselling/advice Service by phone and by e-mail: (09) 2280 5141 or (09) 2280 5145, email@example.com
Support with child care
Babysitters in Finland facebook group
Expat mothers in Helsinki/Finland
English speaking parents in Helsinki
General Parenting Websites