Blue Stories Project: Sharing Journeys out of Perinatal Depression
A nationwide perinatal depression awareness campaign: 2nd September 2022 – February 2023
The Blue Stories Project is a nationwide campaign of exhibitions, audio interviews and posters. It is aimed at making perinatal depression more visible. Research suggests that one in five women will experience perinatal depression. On the ground, in actuality, Queenstown’s Lisa Gear suggests that figure is more like one in four and 50% of cases will go undiagnosed. Lisa is the Mental Wellbeing Navigator at Central Lakes Family Service and her experience is sobering. There are many reasons why someone with perinatal depression will struggle on, a huge one is the lack of awareness around what perinatal depression looks and feels like or where to go for help and another is a perceived stigma attached to reaching out for help. For something that is affecting so many women, why is there so little awareness? And where there is awareness, why is there shame? Lisa is one of seven regional coordinators of the Blue Stories Project. Lisa says that “building awareness is what we’re always looking at and reducing stigma, these are the two things we’ll potentially get out of being involved with a project like this… normalise things.” Also involved are Auckland’s Well Women Franklin and Kidz Need Dadz, Wellington’s Little Shadow, Tauranga’s True Colours – Honouring the Mother, Perinatal Wellbeing Canterbury and Blenheim’s Maternal Mental Wellbeing Marlborough.
The project’s full title is Blue Stories Project: Sharing Stories out of Perinatal Depression. It has its beginnings with illustrator and designer, Karolina Gorton. After experiencing perinatal depression with her second child and then realising she had also gone through this with her first, Karolina saw a need for the public sharing of stories.
There was no logic in my thoughts and little energy left to enjoy life. My counsellor listened to me. I spent lots of time walking as it gave me space and time to think and process my emotions. I found unknown strengths in my perinatal depression experience. Being a woman, being an immigrant, being an artist and being a mum – it’s who I am. And it’s enough. – Karolina Gorton
Karolina approached Perinatal Support Nelson with the idea of collecting and recording stories and drawing portraits of the storytellers towards an exhibition. Karolina says, “It’s very important to talk about perinatal depression, this project gives women and their supporters the chance to share their journey through and out of perinatal depression. We are able to empower people by sharing our stories, but what is more important we might be able to reach people who may need that help now. Now is a good time to raise awareness of perinatal depression, as the experience of Covid‐19 has increased tension and the feeling of “being in isolation”, these are the same feelings many mothers experience when entering motherhood.” Treena Cooper of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression (PADA) agrees, she has connections with agencies all over Aotearoa and the messaging is that the pandemic has exacerbated the experience of perinatal depression. She says that “Taking the Blue Stories Project around Aotearoa will give the chance for all women to know they are not alone on their parenting journey.”
The pilot project launched in Nelson in 2021 and received funding to go nationwide. As such, Karolina is creating portraits of women and their supporters from all over Aotearoa who have shared their blue stories with her. Each image contains a story and an encouraging message for the audience to read. The project also includes audio interviews with some of the women who shared their stories of getting out of perinatal depression, with a counsellor who explains the symptoms of perinatal depression and with Harriet Denham, the Clinical Manager at Perinatal Support Nelson. These are available online now with a further 14 interviews that share a diverse range of perinatal depression perspectives set to be uploaded in September. The Blue Stories Project will be supported by a nationwide poster campaign during Mental Health Awareness week (26th September – 2nd October).
The nationwide Blue Stories Project launches with an official exhibition opening at the Pukekohe Library in the Auckland region at 1pm on the 2nd of September. This exhibition is a collaboration with Well Women Franklin and Kidz Need Dadz and will run until the end of the month, with the nationwide Project running until February next year. If you have a story to share, there is time. Karolina is still collecting stories from women and their supporters, in particular from the Canterbury, Marlborough, Otago and Wellington regions. If you have a story to share, please submit it via the Blue Stories website.
In Queenstown, as she gets ready to host one of her new parents support groups, run by Central Lakes Family Service Staff and catered by volunteers in the community who supply free breast-feeding advice, food, home knitting, patchwork quilts and much more. Lisa Gear says that “We’re doing connecting work, creating a village sort of environment. This is quite uplifting work, it keeps you going.” Visit www.bluestoriesproject.com for all exhibition dates, the online exhibition, audio interviews and to submit your blue story.
Blue Stories Project has received funding and support from Nelson City Creative Communities Scheme, Tasman District Creative Communities Scheme, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa (PADA), Perinatal Support Nelson, Venue Tech and National Lottery Community Grants. Need help now? Go to www.pada.nz. Photo Credit: Kate Russell / Nelson Weekly.
Karolina Gorton, Project Coordinator and Illustrator, ph. 021 028 66086
Related online sites:
Nationwide exhibition dates:
2 – 30 Sept Pukekohe Library Auckland
24 Sept – 23 Oct South Library Christchurch
10 Oct – 6 Nov Tūranga Library Christchurch
19 Nov – 16 Dec Frankton Library Queenstown
Note: Blenheim, Tauranga and Wellington dates TBC.
Nationwide poster campaign
26 Sept – 8 Oct
Blue Stories Project creator Karolina Gorton