Warrior Mom Conference – Need your Questions

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We wget answersant to hear from our warrior mom community as we begin our first ever Warrior Mom Conference.  The first morning of the conference is filled with an amazing panel of speakers.  We will have a moderated question and answer session.  Follow along with us on social media as we live tweet the question and answer session.  We want to hear from you.  Our speakers that are part of the Educate & Empower panel are Dr. Ruta Nonacs, Mara Acel-Green, Dr. Lekeisha Sumner, and Peggy Kaufman.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking.  What do you wish you had known about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders? How can we help moms access treatment more easily?  What obstacles have you faced with regards to finding the right treatment?  How can we increase our reach to underserved communities?  What type of community supports should be in place? If you have encountered obstacles in finding community support, what were they?  Submit your comments to the Facebook page.

 

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Postpartum Progress Impact Report 2014

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Postpartum Progress Mission 2014

If you’re like me, Postpartum Progress has impacted your life in more ways than one. After having my daughter in 2010, I discovered this powerful community of Warrior Moms at a time when I needed it most. I not only found invaluable information, but also felt the kindness, care and dedication of so many during my own journey through treatment and recovery. I hope you have too, because truly we are none of us alone.

There are many volunteers who work behind the scenes of this passionate organization, and I wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you. Your time and talents make the recently released 2014 Postpartum Progress Impact Report possible. Our many programs and campaigns are coordinated by those who strongly believe in our mission, those who offer their time and talents to make these programs a success.

Postpartum Progress IS making an impact in many communities. Below are just a few highlights, but I encourage you to check out the complete report here.

Postpartum Progress 2014 ReachMaternal Mental Health Awareness

Increasing awareness has always been a primary mission. To that end, Postpartum Progress develops and provides materials at not cost to help moms identify PPD and related illnesses, reduce stigma, and encourage mothers to seek professional help. In 2014, 4,250 of our new discreet, pocket-sized “Hugs Cards” were distributed to local peer advocates across the country to share information on where moms can access the free resources and support we provide. Our new Tools page, offers free downloads of our most popular patient resources, including a new 2014 infographic about the negative downstream consequences of untreated PPD.

PostpartumProgress.com and Other Media Reach

Individuals from more than 200 countries visited PostpartumProgress.com in 2014 at a rate of 1.6 million pageviews, with most traffic coming from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Philippines and Singapore. We continue to reach growing numbers of women and families via our social media channels.

Our reach into other media included a feature on BuzzFeed “Can You Tell a Mom has Postpartum Depression Just by Looking at Her,” which garnered more than 275,000 pageviews in the US alone, and was translated into Spanish and French for global audiences. We were proud to be featured on the national Healthy Mother, Healthy Babies Coalition blog in May during Maternal Mental Health Month, as well as in a full page story in Woman’s World magazine, a supermarket weekly with 1.6 million readers. Also in 2014, we were honored with the Iris Award at the Mom 2.0 Summit in the category of Industry Influence – Philanthropic Work, given for excellence and quality in parent blogging and social media.

Climb Out of the Darkness

Our 2nd Annual Climb Out of the Darkness saw tremendous growth and excitement from 200 participants to 2013 to more than 1,500 last year. Awareness is a major objective of the Climb, and we were thrilled to see the event covered by CNN, The New York Times‘ Motherlode blog, and numerous local newspaper and television news outlets. “It is abundantly clear that Warrior Moms needed an event to call their own, where they could turn their shame upside down and let the world know how important it is to recognize their illnesses,” said Postpartum Progress Executive Director Katherine Stone. Be sure to join us for our 3rd Annual Climb Out of the Darkness on June 20, 2015.

Peer Support & Community

Peer support and community is a vital part of the Postpartum Progress mission. We are truly stronger together. Our Smart Patients private support forum for moms currently struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders grew from 230 members in 2013 to 1,600, many of whom have no access to support groups where they live. And in 2014 we announced we’d be hosting the first patient-centered conference on maternal mental illness, the Warrior Mom Conference, to be held in Boston in July 2015. If you are unable to attend, please join our fellow Homestead Warriors.

Research

Postpartum Progress is interested in collaborating with organizations to not only measure the impact of our own work but to help identify new and better ways to support moms. In 2014, we conducted our first audience impact survey, which revealed that users of Postpartum Progress’ resources are influenced to both seek professional help and speak out about their illnesses with others. For more information about this survey and our first foray into research collaboration, please visit the 2104 Impact Report.

Looking Ahead in 2015

There are many great things to come this year and beyond for Postpartum Progress. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting our efforts. We couldn’t do any of this without you,” said Katherine Stone.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s the amazing individuals who volunteer their time and those who raise funds that make these programs possible. I for one am profoundly grateful to all of you.

For more information, read the full 2014 Postpartum Progress Impact Report.

Warrior Mom

 

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Postpartum Depression: A Feminist Issue

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Do not dismiss postpartum depression with a shrug and an eye roll, Ms. Albert.  It affects one out of every seven women.  Ms. Elisa Albert wrote a book After Birth that I will definitely not be reading.  Her main premise is that women do not have enough support for the choices that they are making.  I wholeheartedly agree with that statement and the overall theme of her book.  Based on an article with the Guardian, she then contradicted the primary theme of her book as she heaped judgement and shame on women who choose medication as an option to treat their postpartum mood and anxiety disorder.

I recognize the responsibility that I have as a Warrior Mom and as a mental health advocate.  I am not a trained professional.  I offer support and encouragement to moms who are struggling.  I share what worked for me to simply encourage a mom who is struggling to have as many options as possible.  Medication saves lives; my medication saved mine.  My medication was one of the tools in my toolbox.  I utilized many tools in my toolbox to help me recover: therapy, online peer support through Postpartum Progress, support from my friends and family, exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, journaling, singing, and sharing my story with other moms.

Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders manifest themselves differently because each mom is unique.  What worked for me may work for a friend, but it may not.  Making blanket statements does a disservice to all moms.  Ms. Albert made this statement.  “The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time.” Guess what Ms. Albert? I had all of that, and I still struggled.  I spent my entire pregnancy anxious and depressed.  With time and perspective my family and I have been able to pinpoint how these symptoms manifested themselves immediately after I became pregnant.  My antenatal depression manifested itself in irritability and rage.  I had support from both my mother and my mother-in-law while I was on maternity leave for three months.  I had a supportive network of friends and family.  I still struggled for seventeen months until I finally got the help I so desperately needed.  My baby girl was seven months by the time I realized that I was not getting better.  Do not speak for me or for the community of Warrior Moms.  Let us tell our stories.

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Women of Color and Maternal Mental Health: Why Are We So Underserved?

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women of color maternal mental healthOver the past year, I’ve made it a point in my advocacy efforts to focus more on women of color, talking with them about their mental health experiences during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Based on those conversations and my own personal experience, I’ve become especially interested in how perinatal mood disorders and their symptoms impact and manifest in our lives, what culturally specific barriers to support and treatment we encounter, and what mental health advocacy efforts are being made to remove those barriers for us. Here’s what I’ve learned from research, Postpartum Progress’ current survey on mothers of color and their experience with perinatal mental health, conversations I’ve had with fellow mothers of color, and from what I’ve seen in the mental health advocacy space.

 

  • We are woefully underserved by mental health professionals and social services that reside in our communities-for a variety of reasons. Many of the women I spoke to were dismissed, rebuffed, or had their mental health concerns during pregnancy and the postpartum period downplayed by their doctor, pediatrician, pastor, and/or social worker.
  • Women of color are either without health insurance, or have insurance plans that do not cover mental health services, especially during pregnancy. Medicaid, for example, often lapses in many states six weeks after pregnancy, leaving many without continued coverage and access to mental health care.
  • We are not informed or aware of what places us at a particular risk for developing one of these illnesses compared to Whites.
  • We simply aren’t aware of the symptoms of perinatal mood disorders.
  • Stigma around mental illness is prevalent in our cultures but this is especially true when it comes to motherhood. Our cultures place a significant emphasis on us being silent about our struggles, taking care of everyone else before ourselves, turning to religion in an effort to overcome, and on being strong in the face of adversity-particularly in the face of oppression, racism and other socioeconomic stressors. Seeking the help of a professional, and disclosing our symptoms is seen as a sign of weakness so much so that we ignore the need to make our mental health a priority. Health advocacy efforts focus solely on physical illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, infant mortality, and cultural disparities in breastfeeding rates. The latest statistics show that women of color and those living at or below the poverty line have a higher rate of occurrence, yet none of the national organizations dedicated to empowering and serving minorities discuss maternal mental health and the disparities that exist in regards to diagnosis, support, and treatment. This is preposterous and negligent considering our rate of occurrence is 1 in 4.
  • Our reasons for not discussing it publicly are a significant barrier to raising awareness and seeking treatment. We face racial and gender discrimination in our places of employment so as you can imagine, disclosure of a postpartum mood disorder can increase the risk of losing our jobs significantly. Many of the women I’ve spoken with have expressed this fear, with several stating it was the sole reason they didn’t seek treatment either during pregnancy or when their symptoms peaked during their child’s first year. Support from family and friends is often minimal due to culture specific stigma and ignorance surrounding mental illness. Many of us living at the poverty line or who are in the lower-income bracket utilize the help of social services such as SNAP, WIC, and TANF; speaking from personal experience, I can say being under scrutiny from social workers and the state triggers fears of losing your children for being seen as unfit to care for them.
  • Lack of research. I’ve grown incredibly frustrated in my efforts to find consistent research on this issue because, quite frankly, it’s pretty scant. Most of the research that focuses solely on women of color and perinatal mental health is also out of date, with data from the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
  • Lack of targeted advocacy. We do not see women who look like us in literature doctor’s offices, or on websites that talk about perinatal mental health. There are very few if any advocacy campaigns or outreach targeted specifically towards us, like there are for other health issues and breastfeeding. Advocacy organizations often focus on minority mental health only during designated months once or twice a year, instead of on a consistent basis. Many organizations simply focus on all pregnant and new mothers, which is fine, but such a general scope ignores our unique experiences with mental health. Our disparities in support and treatment due to socioeconomic stressors, our particular needs, the risk factors we face, as well as the role culturally specific stigma plays as a barrier are not taken into consideration when calls to action are given. They are mentioned as an afterthought, a sentence or two in a post or article. The results of such inattentiveness are programs and initiatives that are not inclusive of our unique needs. Finally, we lack support groups in our own communities as well as safe spaces online to talk with other women like us who understand our unique struggles as mothers, which for many of us creates a very isolated existence.

This has to change. It’s unacceptable and as a woman of color and survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety, it hurts my heart to know our maternal mental health isn’t being actively prioritized, much less thought of.  While I fully understand that postpartum mood disorders don’t discriminate in terms of who they impact, and that the need to help pregnant and new moms is great all across the board, I also know that efforts are seriously lagging behind when it comes to the maternal mental health of women of color. We MUST do better. Later this week, I will talk about how we can but for now, I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Mothers of color, what has your experience been, and what kinds of supports and programs do you think would serve us better? What kind of improvements would YOU like to see?

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