Climb Out of the Darkness Local Grant Applications Now Open!

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Climb Out of the Darkness GrantsPostpartum Progress’ Climb Out of the Darkness® is the world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety & OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, postpartum bipolar disorder, and pregnancy depression and anxiety. In 2015, more than $240,000 was raised during this event, an almost 40 percent increase over 2014. In addition, 2,500 Climbers participated in teams worldwide, an increase of 60 percent over 2014. We’re very excited to start getting ready for next year’s Climb, which will be held on Saturday, June 18th, 2016. Mark your calendars!!!!

As part of our preparations, we’re opening up the application process for our 2016 Climb Out of the Darkness Local Grant program. Each year, Postpartum Progress’ Board of Directors elects to donate a percentage of funds raised by Climbs held in selected states to local, independent, 501c3 registered nonprofit organizations that provide direct services, such as support groups, or that lead community network development (building up systems of referral between OBs/pediatricians/PCPs or hospitals and reproductive psychiatry specialists). We believe it is important to support local organizations that are truly making a difference directly for moms in their communities.

In 2015, grants ranging in size from $400 to $3600 were made to the following organizations:

  1. New York Climbs – Postpartum Resource Center of New York
  2. Michigan Climbs – Moms Bloom
  3. Ontario Climbs – Life With A Baby
  4. British Columbia Climbs – Pacific Post Partum Support Society
  5. California Climbs – California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative
  6. Massachusetts Climbs – MotherWoman
  7. Virginia Climbs – Postpartum Support Virginia
  8. North Carolina Climbs – Postpartum Education & Support

New for 2016!

For our 2016 cycle, we are excited to launch a new grant application process. All grant applications must be submitted via our online application. Postpartum Progress will also require all grant applicants to answer a series of questions to help us better ensure that the Climb grants we make each year meet the mission and priorities of our organization. Measures have also been put in place to ensure that, with the help of our awardees, we are better able to track the outcomes and impact of the grants we make.

To review the 2016 Request for Funding (RFP) guidelines and apply for a grant, please click here: 2016 Grant Program  Applications must be submitted by October 31, 2015. Please be sure your organization meets the eligibility requirements prior to submitting an application. 

If you have any questions about the COTD Local Grants Program or would like to discuss your program’s eligibility, please email Amanda Hope, Event Manager at

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Birth Trauma: Coping with Triggers

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The following is a guest post written by Karin Beschen, a Warrior Mom living in Iowa with her husband and two sons.  

She works as a psychotherapist, specializing in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.


This morning I walked outside to grab the newspaper and felt the distinct autumn chill. It’s the same chill that has always made me smile because it’s paired with cozy sweaters, hot apple cider and football. Then I took a breath. It wasn’t a breath of warm memories; it was suddenly a breath of fear and panic – an inhale that has become a familiar blend of sinking and stinging through my whole body.
“I’m okay.  I’m safe.”
It’s been years since my son’s traumatic birth, but every first scent of the season nearly sends me to my knees. I have done a tremendous amount of work with the trauma, yet my journey continues to be scattered with these triggers – these “rocks” on my path of healing. Rocks that I kick, boulders that I avoid and pebbles that I hold lovingly in my hand.

Early on, the triggers were overwhelming. My mind easily fell back to my son’s birth and related events and it was difficult – sometimes impossible – to be in the present moment. I was fearful of what I may see, smell, feel or hear that would begin the flood of thoughts and images. Some triggers were more evident and I could prepare for them and work through them fairly quickly.  Other triggers were spontaneous and seemed to have the most power behind them. These were the times when it felt like someone put a fresh set of batteries in my mind – everything felt brighter, sharper, louder … scarier.

People tend to think triggers are negative things – obvious things from the trauma. Many of my triggers were items or experiences I had previously associated with happiness or pleasure – seeing pregnancy, a baby aisle at the store or maternity clothing. Post-birth these things would jolt me and they became a source of avoidance and aversion.  They symbolized a tremendous amount of loss and disappointment. They reminded me how everything changed from calm to chaos in a handful of minutes.

Coping with Triggers

It’s impossible to completely avoid triggers, so it’s important to learn how to cope with them. There are numerous effective, healthy strategies for managing triggers of post-traumatic stress (and can be valuable with any perinatal emotional distress).

The list below outlines a few ideas for lessening the impact of triggers. I’ve found them especially helpful because they can be used in a variety of environments, even when my son was napping in my arms.

Finding Presence: Grounding exercises are a way to connect with the present moment. They help by easing out of the distressing thoughts and becoming more aware of the immediate environment. “Out of the mind and into the body.” Simple body movements like stretching or walking around the house (feeling feet on the floor, altering light and heavy steps) can improve presence.

Taking away the story:  The triggers are triggering because they carry a story. I found it helpful to take in the triggering object or situation for what it was – without the narrative. It can be challenging to do in the moment, but becomes easier with time and practice. For example, the hospital baby blanket was a trigger for me. Even though I had put ours away, the familiar blanket seemed to follow me around town, pop up in other babies’ photos and plague me with fear. I re-introduced myself to the blanket without the story.  It was soft, light-weight, rectangular and had pastel footprints printed on one side. Little by little, the traumatic story that had been associated with the blanket lessened.

Care and affirmation:  Holding my hand to my heart was a way of feeling and showing self-compassion.  It was an important gesture that I did throughout the day, especially at times when I felt the least-deserving of care. It offered a pause. I was going through the most difficult time of my life and I needed to be kind to myself.

I had a few affirmations to write or say to myself to acknowledge that I was safe in that moment (no matter how real my flashback felt) and the original experience/trauma was over.

“I’m okay.  I’m safe.”
“All of my feelings are okay.”
“I will feel better.”
“I can heal.”

Affirmations can become reality. I am safe. Every feeling I’ve had and every one I continue to have is okay. I am better – a lot better.  I’m healing.  Every day brings more healing, and I will continue to walk on the path. Rocks and all.

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Postpartum Progress Announces Mental Health First Aid Training

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Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 12.54.10 PMPostpartum Progress is thrilled to announce our newest program: the Mental Health First Aid Training Warrior Mom Scholarship!

Our Warrior Mom volunteers are at the heart of everything we do. We hear, time and time again, that after sharing stories about your personal experiences with PPD and related illnesses, women in your communities turn to you as sources of support. You are often faced with questions about diagnoses and treatments. You are asked to listen to the stories of new moms who are struggling, and to take on roles as mentors and friends. You are asked for help finding providers. For years, you’ve been telling us you’re concerned about knowing the best way to respond to those who need help.

Well, we’ve heard you!

We are so pleased to tell you that we’ve partnered with the National Council for Behavioral Health and will be providing scholarships for Mental Health First Aid Training to 100 Warrior Mom volunteers and Mental Health First Aid Instructor Certification to 5 Warrior Mom volunteers from across the United States.

The partnership will allow Postpartum Progress to provide scholarships for the National Council’s Mental Health First Aid Training that will lead to the total training of 400 maternal mental health peer supporters between now and the end of 2016. It also will form the foundation for future evidence-based trainings and peer-to-peer supporter education for Postpartum Progress volunteers. This is the first national effort to bring Mental Health First Aid training specifically to the peer support community of survivors of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders across the US.

What is Mental Health First Aid Training?

Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that can help individuals across the community to understand mental illnesses, support timely intervention and save lives. The program is an 8-hour class developed by the National Council for Behavioral Health to teach participants how to help someone who is experiencing an ongoing mental health problem or crisis. Participants will learn signs of addiction and mental illness, the impact of mental and substance abuse disorders, a 5-step action plan to assess a situation and help, and local resources they can provide to women who may need further assistance. Mental Health First Aid is a nationally recognized, evidence-based program.

I’m already looking for how I can participate. How can I apply?

Am I eligible to participate?

  • Scholarships are open PMAD survivors, advocates, and members of the Postpartum Progress community.
  • Participation in Climb Out of the Darkness® or the Warrior Mom™ Conference is not required but will factor into participant selection.
  • Though we love our international Warrior Moms (and we do!), we are only able to offer scholarships for trainings in the US for now.

Questions?  Email Susan at


The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with 2,300 member organizations, it serves more than eight million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. The organization is committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and have trained 450,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities. To learn more about the National Council, visit

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Is Your Medication Working for You? Here’s A New App To Help You Find Out

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postpartum depression appThere’s probably nothing Postpartum Progress hears about more from moms than their concerns about taking medication as a treatment for postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and all other perinatal mental illnesses. Is it safe? Why do I need an antidepressant? What about the side effects? How long will it take to feel better? Why can’t I just be happy on my own? What if I don’t feel better? What is the right dosage? How do I know this is the right antidepressant for me?

I know. I GET IT. SO MUCH. When I was first diagnosed with postpartum OCD, I spent 8 months seeing a psychiatrist who put me on medication after medication after medication and I wasn’t getting much better. I had no idea anymore whether how I was feeling was because of my illness, my meds or both. All I knew was that I was horribly ill and miserable and I was completely confused as to why. I later switched to a different psychiatrist who specialized in maternal mental health and she helped me find the right treatment plan in pretty short order. Hooray for effective treatment!!!

Here’s the thing: For some moms, medication is the right answer. Not the lazy answer. Not the weak answer. The right answer for a mom who is in crisis and needs to get stable so that she can get back to functioning on a daily basis. What matters most is your health and your ability to be a mother in a way that is sometimes fulfilling and sometimes really stressful, but not permanently miserable.

At Postpartum Progress, we’re interested in harnessing the power of digital technology and the power of data from all the moms in our large community to find more and better ways to help you find out what’s wrong, help you get the best information, and help you get the best and most effective help for YOU as quickly as possible. That’s why we’re excited to launch a new partnership today with a company called Iodine to test out their new app called Start postpartum depression app. (Iodine is a technology company founded by Thomas Goetz, the former executive editor of Wired magazine, and Matt Mohebi, a former Google software engineer.)

iodine postpartum progress

Start is an iPhone app for people who have just started with an antidepressant. It works with you to track how you are feeling on your medication and what kinds of side effects you are having. It provides you information about the experience thousands of others have had — for instance, did most people who took a certain medication have the same side effect you’re having and how long did it take for that side effect to go away, if at all? And it helps you assess over a six-week period whether you are feeling better. If you aren’t, it prompts you to reach out to your doctor to discuss your treatment plan. The key is to help you find what works for you sooner, rather than later, so that you can get better. As Iodine explains it:

“The promise is not just better adherence (the medical term for taking the drug on schedule, as the doctor prescribed), it’s what we call Therapeutic Optimization. For the individual, this means getting to the best drug, faster … On a population level, it means learning which medications work best for which types of people, and improving how medicine assesses, prescribes for, and monitors patients. It’s what we mean when we say our mission is to turn experience into better medicine.”

We know a lot of things to be true:

1) Many moms with postpartum depression and anxiety are afraid of taking medication. Often they’ll quit taking it after a day or two because they are so anxious about what it might do to them or how it will make them feel. Did you know 30% of people who are prescribed an antidepressant quit taking it in the first month? What if you knew that a side effect was only temporary? What if you had some information that helped allay your fears, so that you don’t quit a treatment before it has had time to work?

2) Some women receive prescriptions for antidepressants without accurate follow up planned between doctor and mom. According to Iodine, “Only a third of patients treated for depression have a follow-up with their doctor in the next 3 months.” Moms don’t always get the opportunity to revisit how things are going with their doc, and at Postpartum Progress we end up hearing from women who’ve been on a medication for months, and sometimes even years, on end but are still struggling mightily and convinced they’re never going to get better. They give up believing that they’ll recover. That’s not okay with us. We want moms to feel that they are empowered to communicate with their doctors.

3) Sometimes you might actually be getting better and not realize it. You’re tired. You’re stress. You’re worried. And depression after all makes it hard to have hope and see when things might be better than you think you are.

Start was designed to help address these issues. It starts by getting to know you and the side effects and symptoms you are most worried about, as well as what your goals are. Then every couple of days the app checks in on you and how you are doing. Every two weeks you’ll get a progress report and at six weeks — the point at which an effective antidepressant should be working — you’ll get an assessment. If the assessment indicates the medication might not be particularly effective for you, Start will suggest options for you to discuss with your doctor. Start doesn’t provide medical advice or diagnoses — it simply helps you have more information.

Postpartum Progress believes in empowering moms, and we want you to have better information too. To use Start or learn more, visit Once you download and launch the app, BE SURE to enter the referral code PPP2015. 

Oh, and for you Android users, I know, I know. I’m an Android owner myself (Samsung Galaxy) so believe you me I want them to make Start available on Android just as much as you do. They’re working on it. Patience, my friends. 😉

Here’s Iodine’s announcement from this morning as well.

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