MERCY Sister Angela Mary Doyle is a legend in Australian healthcare and she used International Women’s Day on March 8 to spread a much-needed message about a “disturbing situation” in women’s health.
Sr Doyle, an award-winning humanitarian and Member of the Order of Australia, appeared as a guest speaker at the Springfield City Group International Women’s Day event.
There she spoke about her work in healthcare, touching on the work she did in the 1980s for AIDS sufferers, a condition with stigma attached to it to this day.
But it was another issue with stigma attached that she focused her message on – perinatal mental health issues.
“Perinatal” refers to the period of time before and after childbirth.
Sr Doyle stressed the importance of spreading awareness about the condition and the need for more services to support women and families suffering in silence.
“It’s a disturbing situation, largely hidden and, if not recognised and treated, can have severe and long-lasting consequences,” she said.
“Surprisingly this condition affects as many as one in 30 pregnant women and, while it may not be an overtly visible condition, many women will suffer in silence, often not understanding that they have a mental health issue.
“The effects can be distressing for the woman and those around her and, if left untreated, can result in adverse effects on the child, relationship breakdown, isolation and even maternal suicide.
“If this situation is to be addressed adequately, a range of services is required, including expert psychological and psychiatric support, ensuring the mother is having adequate sleep, taking her food, and that mother and baby are treated together and not separately.
“Important too is support for her husband or partner who can often feel lost or bewildered in a situation with which he may not be familiar.
“Throughout Queensland there may be only four beds dedicated to this purpose, so a lot more beds need to be provided, and in a loving, caring and professional way.”
Sr Doyle also said she admired the story of Springfield and the city group’s chairman Maha Sinnathamby, with whom she has been friends for many years.
She offered a lesson to the host organisation about the role of ministry.
“People have differing ideas about what constitutes ministry – some would say ministries are about teaching, being an executive, an administrator or musician,” Sr Doyle said.
“I think these are tasks that can be carried out by anyone skilled in the field and remain tasks unless there is an underlying task or purpose behind them.
“Let me apply this to your own activities here in Springfield – you are not just constructing buildings and providing services as opportunities arise – you are building a city, and have a purpose and values that underpin all of it.
“There is the very important value of being proud of your history and, for each of you who are proud of Springfield City and who work to promote it, this is ministry.
“Each one of you here today possesses an intrinsic desire to be the best you can be and to promote Springfield as a place that wants to make a positive contribution to our communities, to our country and beyond.
“In addition to unequalled leadership, lies the phenomenal success to date of Springfield.”
Mr Sinnathamby said Sr Doyle’s work was inspirational.
“I admire her for her tenacity, her persistence and her never-give-up attitude,” he said.
“We all fight for something in life, we all want to achieve something but here we have today a wonderful human being who has dedicated her life tirelessly for no reward, no self-benefit, just to uplift society.
“It’s a wonderful lesson we can all learn from.”