The Racial & Ethnic Disparities of Identifying & Treating Postpartum Depression

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Jasmine BanksDid you ever wonder if you were suffering from postpartum depression because a friend talked to you about their experience? Did you read a book that reflected your experiences? If you found a narrative that fit with your experience, did you have access to health care because you had a treatment team that believed you?

Often times women dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety will report their difficulties finding a diagnosis and/or helpful treatment and support. Everyone is still working hard to understand PPD and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. As part of this conversation, though, there are two key words that are often overlooked: Exposure and access. These two words are important factors that impact the well-being of protected classes of people. Protected classes of people often have double the difficulty when dealing with maternal mental illness because in order to obtain help you have to be exposed to stories and information that reflect your experience, and then you need access to the processes that allow you to obtain help.

Postpartum depression is a serious debilitating illness that affects approximately 10-20% of women. This statistic, though, is a measure of women who were able to identify what they were going through. Imagine the women, for instance women of color, who aren’t added to this statistic because they don’t have exposure and access to understand what they are suffering with?

A psychiatric study by Katy Backes Kozhimannil and her colleagues yielded results that concluded that, “… there were significant racial-ethnic differences in depression-related mental health care after delivery.” These results outline a stark reality for women of color: they are less likely to be screened for PPD, and less likely to get treatment and receive follow-up care. The results also showed that it was more likely for treatment teams to attribute symptoms of Black and Latin women to other ailments, and not PPD.

To make it plain, while many women are never screened, women of color are bypassed in the screening process even more so, and when they do display symptoms of PPD, other factors are often blamed, so these moms won’t get the help they really need. This reality means it is vital for women who are at risk for perinatal mood disorders to be strong self-advocates. How, the question becomes, can one advocate for something that you haven’t been made aware of? If you have been exposed, how then does one self-create access in a system that either doesn’t offer access to people who look like you, or offers less-effective help or many fewer options?

Awareness for postpartum depression is increasing, yet there are still women who are falling through the cracks due to systemic oppression and racism. We must care for the most vulnerable among us. The Postpartum depression conversation should involve early intervention, treatment, and awareness for ALL women.

The study I mentioned above also cited:

“The differences in initiation and continuation of care uncovered in this study imply that a disproportionate number of black women and Latinas who suffer from postpartum depression do not receive needed services. These differences represent stark racial-ethnic disparities potentially related to outreach, detection, service provision, quality, and processes of postpartum mental health care. Although suboptimal detection and treatment rates are not uncommon for this condition or in this population (7,42,43), these results emphasize that postpartum depression remains an underrecognized (sic) and undertreated (sic) condition for all low-income women, especially for those from racial and ethnic minority groups.”

Over the next 6 weeks I’ll be having leading a conversation here at PostpartumProgress.com about ways to improve the conversation as it relates to women of color and postpartum depression. We will talk about stigma, social constraints, patient-provider communication, and involving more women of color in the change agency efforts. Postpartum Progress means progress for ALL women, which means some difficult and important conversations. I hope you’ll join me.

Jasmine Banks is a writer and Mental Health Professional with a Master’s of Community Counseling and a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and Communications. Jasmine is a Postpartum Psychosis and Depression survivor. You can find more from her on her blog JustJasmineBlog.com or on Instagram (Djazzo).

Founder’s note: One of the goals at Postpartum Progress is to expand our reach and support so that all women are getting the information and help they need. As you all know, in general most women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are not getting the right help. It is also true, though, that women of color get even less access and have even fewer options than the general population. I’ve been an advocate for more than a decade now and I know this to be true because I have seen it with my own eyes. I’m thrilled that Jasmine is joining us to share her experience and knowledge so that we can open our eyes to what all types of women are experiencing and figure out what we can do better. ~ Katherine

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Stand Together for Moms With Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

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climb tee 2015Three years ago Postpartum Progress started an event called Climb Out of the Darkness®. We had no idea what it would become. We only knew we needed an event that would bring together moms from around the country and around the world who wanted to stand together, publicly, to raise their voices and stand up for maternal mental health.

The 3rd annual Climb Out of the Darkness is happening this June, on Saturday June 20th in most locations. At this event, moms like you (and hopefully, INCLUDING YOU) will walk paths and hike trails in solidarity with every mom who has ever had and will ever have postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum psychosis, postpartum PTSD, or depression or anxiety during pregnancy. We want the world to know how common perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are, and that we need more and better help.

There are already more than 1,200 registered participants in the 2015 Climb Out of the Darkness. The events are being held in places like Anchorage, Alaska and Gainesville, Florida. London, England, and Topeka, Kansas. Concord, Massachusetts and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Detroit, Michigan and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Raleigh, North Carolina and Camano Island, Washington. We currently have 10 Climbs in California, 8 in Texas, 6 in Pennsylvania, and 6 in Washington, and in Colorado and in Florida. There are 5 each in Michigan and New Jersey. We have group Climbs and we have private family and solo Climbs. We have teams led by survivors, teams led by doulas, teams led by therapists and teams led by hospitals.

climb map 5 26 2015

The more of you who join in, and bring along the family members and friends and colleagues who care about you and who care about the mental health of mothers, the better. When we join together in massive numbers, we cannot be sidelined. We cannot be ignored. It’s easy to participate. Registration is free. You are not required to raise money, but if you do decide to fundraise for our nonprofit and you raise $100 or more prior to June 30th, you will receive our official 2015 Climb Out of the Darkness t-shirt (the design is pictured above).

No matter your level of participation, we want you to be part of the Climb. If you’d like to see what it looks like to be standing side by side with other women who have been through exactly what you have, check out some of our photos from past Climbs.  If you have questions, check out our FAQ. If you want to find and join the Climb closest to you, check out our map and Climb listing. If you don’t see a team in your area and want to start one, go for it!! Just email our event manager Amanda Hope at climboutofthedarkness@gmail.com.

If you were thinking you were alone in the world when it comes to struggling with PPD or a related illness, just look where women are climbing!!

  • Alabama: Anniston, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa
  • Alaska: Anchorage
  • Arizona: Phoenix, Tucson
  • Arkansas: River Valley
  • California: Berkeley, LA/Valley, Long Beach, Mission Peak, Palmdale, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Barbara, Upland, Walnut Creek
  • Colorado: Boulder, Colorado Springs, Durango, Ft. Collins, Red Rocks
  • Connecticut: Meridien, Fairfield, New Haven
  • Delaware: Wilmington
  • Florida: Gainesville, Miami, Orlando, Sarasota, Satellite Beach, West Palm Beach
  • Georgia: Atlanta, Savannah, St. Mary’s
  • Illinois: Chicago Downtown, Chicago Western Suburbs, Mt. Vernon, Rockford
  • Indiana: Ft. Wayne, Indianapolis, New Albany
  • Iowa: Mason City
  • Kansas: Topeka, Wichita
  • Kentucky: Louisville
  • Louisiana: New Orleans
  • Maine: Portland
  • Maryland: Baltimore, Gaithersburg, Hagerstown
  • Massachusetts: Concord, Groton, Lincoln, Worcester Co.
  • Michigan: Detroit, Grand Haven, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing
  • Missouri: Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis
  • Montana: Missoula
  • Nevada: Las Vegas, Mesquite
  • New Hampshire: Portsmouth
  • New Jersey: Chatham, Hoboken, Jersey Shore, Lincroft, Long Valley
  • New York: Buffalo, NYC, Rochester, Hudson Valley/Housatonic (CT)
  • North Carolina: Charlotte, Raleigh
  • North Dakota: Bismarck
  • Ohio: Cincinnati, Newark
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, Tulsa
  • Oregon: Corvallis, Eugene, Portland
  • Pennsylvania: Central PA, Emmaus, Lancaster County, New Castle, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  • Rhode Island: North Kingstown
  • South Carolina: Charleston, Little River
  • Tennessee: Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville
  • Texas: Amarillo, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Ft. Worth, El Paso, Houston, Pearland, Tyler
  • Utah: Ogden, Salt Lake City, Springville
  • Virginia: Centerville, Fairfax/Loudoun Counties, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Virginia Beach
  • Washington: Bellingham, Camano Island, Kitsap, Olympia, Redmond/Bellevue, Seattle
  • Alberta: East Red Deer County, Edmonton
  • British Columbia: Kelowna, Victoria
  • Nova Scotia: Cape Breton, Halifax
  • Ontario: Ottawa, York
  • Saskatchewan: Moose Jaw, Regina
  • Prince Edward Island: Charlottetown
  • United Kingdom: London
  • United Arab Emirates: Dubai

 

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It’s Okay To Say No

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mental illnessIf you’ve ever found yourself overwhelmed by commitment and struggling with anxiety as a result, this post is for you.

Dear Mamas everywhere,

 

It’s OKAY to say NO. 

I’m in a place right now where I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed with pretty much everything. Commitments are skyrocketing, even as the slower pace of summer creeps in. I’m stretched too thin. I feel I don’t have time for all the important people in my life, including myself.

I’m guessing you’ve probably been there. I think we all have at some point. Speaking strictly off the cuff and not as a person who actually has any science to back this up, but the inability to say no is probably a major contributing factor to anxiety for some of us.

We say yes when asked to do something, thinking the task a small one. No problem. We can totally handle it! But the small tasks add up, and suddenly we’re standing at the foot of a mountain looking toward the top and incapable of seeing the summit.

The trouble is we don’t want to let anyone down. A lot of women, moms especially, are people pleasers. We want to make people happy and keep them that way, so we sacrifice ourselves and our own mental health (and sometimes physical health too) in an effort to do that.

But that’s just not working, is it?

There comes a point where we feel our responsibilities slipping, taking bits of our peace along with them. Getting behind on a task, or worse, forgetting about it completely, just causes a ripple effect throughout the remainder of things we’ve promised leading to feelings of failure and negative self-talk.

It’s okay to make yourself a priority and to cut back on your commitments when you’re feeling lost in an ocean and barely treading water. I need you to hear me when I say that you’re not letting anyone down by refusing to take on more and more and more. (Hi. I’m speaking to myself here, too.)

Saying no is a skill we all need, and we only get better at saying no by practicing it. Reducing the number of commitments we make allows us to focus more intently on those we choose to accept.

Whether it’s refusing to join another committee at school, church, or work, or being honest and saying “no visitors” while in the hospital or after coming home with a new baby, the value in saying no is the same. Saying no is being honest with yourself and others about what you can handle and when.

Give it a shot in the coming weeks. Think about the commitments you’re accepting and remember that it’s okay to say no.

I promise. I’m learning to say no, too.

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The Connecting Threads Among Us

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Did you catch the Mother’s Day Rally last Sunday?

Since it’s Mother’s Day every day here, we wanted to be sure you were given the opportunity to read all the poignant and powerful essays that were published for this year’s Mother’s Day Rally. We are so grateful for the Warrior Moms who shared their stories with us and made the day an inspiring one for so many.

You don’t want to miss these stories, friends. They are an opportunity to behold the connecting threads that run through each individual experience with postpartum mood disorders. Each woman’s experience is unique and yet, we find a powerful “me too” when we talk about the struggle.

Enjoy…

The Return by Cristina Spencer

Rising from the Ashes by Jen Gaskell

That July Afternoon by Robin Neidorf

Fahrenheit by Kimberly Zapata

Batman to the Rescue by Joanell Serra

A Different Breed by Lauren Hale

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL Mothers by Esther Dale

Before Kids by Susan Petcher

Growing Roots Through Mud and Metal by Sarah Bregel

Mad at You by Joyce Munro

Mother’s Day–It’s MINE by Raivon Lee

Newton’s Second Law by Kaly Sullivan

 

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