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Parents who get the support and help that they need with parenting are more relaxed and better able to look after their children. If a mother is mentally unwell, extra support is essential to help with her recovery. Support from family/whânau, extended family, friends and other parents may not always be possible or be enough for some families. Extra community support may be needed.

Please note that under our lists of supports in various regions, we have not included any private professionals. We have tried to keep our lists up to date and appreciate any feedback on this. We have included government and registered non-government organisations.

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Who in the community may be helpful?

  1. Midwife
  2. General practitioner
  3. Plunket nurse
  4. Psychologist
  5. Psychiatrist
  6. Counsellor
  7. Minister or other spiritual support
  8. Social workers
  9. Local cultural group
  10. Nurses, local practice nurse

General practitioner (GP)

General practitioners are often the first people that women go to for help. Let him/her know how you are feeling. Be honest. Take a support person with you. S/he will assess you, by asking questions. S/he may give you a diagnosis at that first appointment or may get you to get blood test or keep a record of your symptoms and then get you back to see them. They may refer you onto a psychiatrist or psychologist or another support organization depending on what help that they think is required.


A midwife will normally be seeing you regularly during pregnancy and after the baby is born. They get to know you well during this time and may pick up that you are not feeling well. They will routinely ask you questions about your mental health at the initial pregnancy booking appointment, during the pregnancy and after the delivery. Be honest about how you are feeling. Tell them about your worries and concerns. If they are concerned that you may have depression, anxiety, or another condition they will refer you onto your GP or sometimes directly, to a psychiatrist.


A clinical psychologist has specialist training in understanding thinking, feelings and behaviour. They are trained to carry out psychological and psychiatric assessments and to provide support, education and a range of psychological therapies. Therapies may include cognitive-based therapy and counselling to individuals, couples, families and groups. Therapy may also focus on the mother/infant relationship. Psychological tests may be administered and interpreted to help understand a person’s problems and abilities. You may see a psychologist either privately (where you pay for their services) or in a hospital based clinic.


A psychiatrist is a doctor with specialist training in psychiatry. A psychiatrist will do a full psychiatric assessment and help determine the correct treatment for a woman, such as what medication may be needed or other supports that may be useful. In a hospital setting, the psychiatrist contributes to team discussions about psychological and social interventions for women and oversees the whole treatment. Women can see psychiatrists privately and pay for these services.

Social worker

A social worker can provide counselling and support for mothers, their partners and families/whânau who are experiencing social, emotional and relationship difficulties. This may involve individual, couple, family/whânau and/or group work, as well as ongoing monitoring of your mood. Where appropriate they may also link you into other support/counselling agencies in the community, including those providing practical help e.g. childcare, home help, benefits etc.


There are many different counsellors available in the community. It can be confusing to people because a counsellors qualifications and expertise can vary. It is important to check this out as well as their level of experience. What type of treatment can they offer you? What experience have they had in mothers and baby issues? They will generally do “talking/listening” treatment with you.

Plunket nurses

Plunket nurses are registered nurses with post-graduate education in Well Child/Tamariki Ora specialty nursing. Plunket nurses see most families in their own homes initially and then in clinics or other community settings. Plunket nurses assess children's development, provide education for parents and have good access to local community supports. They can be good at picking up mental health problems in mothers and referring them to their GPs. Their services are free to all families with children under five. Some clinics have volunteers who provide support groups for mothers and their children

Practice nurses

Practice nurses are available in a general practice along with GPs or may be available in their own independent practices. They can be a good source of support for women. Mothers often spend time with their practice nurse while their child is having a vaccination. In a busy GP practice, a nurse may have more time to talk and listen to mothers than a busy GP. She may be able to alert a GP to a more serious problem. Practice nurses have their own training program and many have undertaken extra training in counselling and in mental health conditions. In rural communities where there is a lack of GPs, there are some specialised nurses who are able to spend time with women and their families.

Spiritual supports

It is important not to forget that this is a strong support for many women and their families. Spirituality or faith can provide a very important dimension in people’s lives. It is important that those who treat women and their families recognise this as a valuable support. It may involve orthodox religion or particular cultural values and beliefs. Some clergy have had counselling training and many can help provide guidance.

What should you expect from a provider?

  1. Check out their level of experience
  2. What is the cost?
  3. Do you trust and feel comfortable with them?
  4. Can I feel open and honest with them?
  5. Do you feel judged or critised by them?
  6. Do you feel that there is hope from the treatment that they are offering?

What to do if you are unhappy with your provider

  1. Try to tell the provider your concerns. How do they view that? Are they dismissive or critical of you? If you do not feel happy with this answer, then look for a new provider.
  2. Take someone with you for support and ask their opinion and feedback

How to find a GP that is interested in helping you

  1. Many GPs take a special interest in depression and other mental health problems. Ring those in your area and ask the practice manager if any of the doctors in the practice have a special interest in mental health. Are they taking on new patients? If not, do they have a recommendation?
  2. Ask friends and family.
  3. Ask your midwife, Plunket nurse or any other health professional that you are seeing if they have any recommendations.

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