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How one woman’s tragedy sparked a movement to help Canadian moms

Flora’s Walk has raised thousands of dollars for perinatal mental health support
Participants at last year's Flora's Walk in Newmarket. Photo supplied

Many new mothers experience perinatal mental health issues, but support for these issues can be difficult to find.

The Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (CPMHC) aims to bridge that gap by providing advocacy and support for families across Canada. 

The non-profit is able to deliver on its mission thanks to community fundraising.

Flora’s Walk is a national awareness walk which fundraises specifically for perinatal mental health. The walk has taken a tragedy and from it created hope for many families.

“Flora’s Walk is the only event in Canada that raises funds for perinatal mental health, with all of the funds staying here,” said Patricia Tomasi, co-founder and executive director of CPMHC. 

Flora’s Walk was named after Flora Babakhani, a Toronto woman who dreamed of being a mother her whole life. At the age of 44, Flora finally became pregnant after years of fertility treatments. 

She gave birth to her daughter Amber on Nov. 4, 2021.

Flora was overjoyed with her healthy baby girl, but her sister Mimi started to worry when she didn’t return her calls for a few days. Mimi thought Flora was just busy being a new mom, but it turns out she was experiencing postpartum psychosis.

1-2 out of 1,000 women experience postpartum psychosis. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Symptoms can include paranoia, hyperactivity, rapid mood swings and delusions or strange beliefs. 

As a result, Flora tragically died by suicide on Jan. 14, 2022, two months after she gave birth to Amber.

Flora’s Walk has been held each year in her honour. 

Over 50 walks take place in various cities across the country, including Newmarket. Newmarket’s well-attended walk was held on May 1, 2024. It was one of many busy events as all of this year’s individual walks were the most successful to-date.

"It was a beautiful day with a beautiful community of people," said Kelley Hassanpour, organizer of Newmarket's Flora's Walk. "This event is about fundraising but it's also about so much more. It's about community and knowing that you are not alone. It's about acknowledging and calling out our current systems and the lack of support they provide for new parents."

“We have raised an astounding $180,000 from 50 walks for perinatal mental health and the total is still climbing. I’m overjoyed that over 60 organizations will receive vital funding to enact their perinatal mental health programs,” Tomasi said. “We are in desperate need of timely access to care and thanks to the hard work of passionate advocates across Canada, we are doing our part to help fill the gaps.”

“We definitely need more targeted funding,” Tomasi said when asked about what could help CPMHC continue to provide services. “What we need is a national perinatal mental health strategy. We’ve been asking for that for five years and we need the federal government to work together and come up with a strategic plan. That’s what we’re missing. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States all have it but Canada doesn’t. It’s costing lives like Flora’s,” she said.

Everyone is welcome to join the walks to support perinatal mental health. 

With continued help from the community, CPMHC hopes to ensure that every mother can receive the support and care they need during one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.

If you would like to learn more or donate to Newmarket’s CPMHC programs, visit here.

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