Seleni is a nonprofit organization that provides clinical services, online information, professional training, and research funding for women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. Mrs. Nitzia Logothetis, Founder and Executive Chairwoman of Seleni Institute, talks exclusively to thediplomat.gr and to journalist Chara Pagkalou about Seleni’s vision, the problems that new couples face, the impact of the economic crisis on family balance, the role of a mother and Seleni’s fatherhood programs.
- Mrs. Logothetis, you are the founder and executive chairwoman of the Seleni Institute, a non-profit dedicated to providing the care, research and information central to maternal and reproductive mental health. Which has been your personal motivation that made you take the initiative to help other women and which is the feedback you receive from women that you encourage?
The Seleni Institute exists first and foremost to destigmatize mental health. For far too long people have suffered alone with mental health issues and the cost can be counted in lives. Even in my own family we’ve been affected; I truly believe that the stigma of a potential poor mental health diagnosis prevents innumerable people from ever even asking for help.
Once I started working as a psychotherapist, I saw daily what the research supports: patients with mentally healthy mothers were better off than those with mothers who were depressed. If we were going to make an impact on the mental health of our society, we needed to start with supporting new mothers. And when I became a mother myself, I saw the tremendous need for organizations to provide that support.
And support means talking really directly about some of society’s biggest taboos. It seems incredible to me that in this world where we publically discuss so many intimate details of our lives, we don’t easily talk about the life and death moments. For instance, infertility, child loss, feelings of overwhelm or inadequacy, these are such common concerns. But left unaddressed the impact on a woman and her family’s lives can be considerable.
Ultimately, we believe that intervention is prevention. When we are able to treat a mother, we know we can help prevent a cascade of issues for her family and for future generations.
- Which are the most common problems that new couples face and in which way the recent economic crisis has changed the balances into the family?
Certainly the current economic crisis has created a sense of uncertainty for all Greeks. And unfortunately, uncertainty is a toxic foundation for growth and often a real-world trigger for anxiety, relationship issues, and even depression. So in these times it’s important to nurture the stability that we do have, focus on our families and our friends, and alleviate as much of uncertainty that we can. For even if the only certainty you have is bad news, it’s easier to cope with bad news than no news at all.
- Which are the skills that a woman needs to have in order to become a good mother and how can she be trained at Seleni Institute to develop them?
At Seleni our favorite quote is “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” But with that in mind, we believe that knowledge is power, and we talk to pregnant women every day about the importance of knowing the basics of pregnancy and baby care before the baby is born. Whether you read articles online, or look at a book, it’s important to know thinks like understanding what will happen during labor and delivery, or even baby care basics. For instance, we talk to our patients about how a fever over 38 degrees Celsius is dangerous for an infant, or how a newborn baby usually only requires an ounce of milk per feeding.
But we also tell our moms that it’s equally important to know that not everything may not be as rosy as the magazines portray. Know that there might be some struggles, but it’s normal part of adjusting to being a new mother and a new family. Ask for support, and if you’re feeling sad or anxious for more than a few weeks after the arrival of a baby, talk to your doctor for support.
- At Seleni Institute you offer special Fatherhood programs as well. How important is dad’s support during and after the pregnancy, especially in cases of mother’s depression?
New mothers do best when they are surrounded by support. But we know that new dads need support too. Psychologically, men face some of the toughest challenges they have ever faced as they enter fatherhood. A man is required to resolve his own conflicts concerning his father, negotiate emotional uncertainty, learn to be dependent on others and let others be dependent on him, and find a community with other fathers. None of these tasks is possible without some level of support and understanding. And parenthood brings relationship challenges to both parents as they learn to navigate their new family’s dynamic.
And not surprising, an emotionally healthy father also appears to greatly improve their partner’s mental health. From pregnancy to parenting, research indicates that fathers who are emotionally responsive and supportive have partners who report significantly less stress, anxiety, and depression – especially postpartum depression.
At Seleni we emphasize the need to support both mothers and fathers around this transition time; open communication, clearly stating needs, and dedicating time to be together as a couple are all important strategies for preserving and supporting both the mothers and the father’s mental health.
- Greece faces an economic crisis that discourages young couples to create their own family. Which is your advice to the Greek young generation?
Since the state of the economy affects livelihoods, part of responsible family planning is, of course, to take into account economic circumstances. But economics is just ONE factor in the family planning process: couples should not abandon thoughts of having a family just because of the current crisis. Couples must believe in the future and the role that their children will play in shaping it.
Founder and Executive Chairwoman
Nitzia Logothetis, MSc, MA, is a trained psychotherapist, as well as the founder and executive chairwoman of the Seleni Institute, a non-profit dedicated to providing the care, research and information central to maternal and reproductive mental health. Mrs Logothetis has a professional interest in maternal mental health, mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. She has worked as a school counselor at the Colegio Isaac Rabin in Panama and as a psychotherapist at the Karen Horney Clinic in New York.
Mrs. Logothetis’s community and philanthropic experience includes classroom volunteer service at the Brimble Hill School for Children with Disabilities in Swindon, UK, and at the Instituto Ateneo in Panama. She also assisted at the Nutre Hogar (a home for malnourished children) and at the Hospital del Niño, both in Panama City. Additionally, she has volunteered at FUNDADES, an orphanage for children with disabilities in Lima, Peru, and served as a mentor to children living with disabilities through Project Eye-to-Eye at Brown University.
After obtaining a degree in psychology from Brown University, Mrs. Logothetis earned an MSc in child development from the University of London. As an Honorary Associate Research Fellow at The Institute of Psychiatry in London, she engaged in research into neurological changes associated with autism and was a coauthor of several papers on the subject. She later earned an MA in counseling for mental health and wellness from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. From 2004 to 2008, she was an alumna trustee of the College Year in Athens, a study abroad program in Greece. She is also a Carrie Tower Member of the Brown Alumni Association, a Patron of the Cycladic Museum of Art in Greece, a Young Patron of the Benaki Museum in Greece, a Young Patron of the New York City Ballet, and a Friends of Baby Buggy member. Mrs. Logothetis lives in Manhattan with her husband, two sons, and daughter.