What Moms Would Ask Presidential Candidates About Maternal Mental Health

With the Iowa Caucuses officially kicking off the election process today, many moms are thinking about what a new President will mean for maternal mental health care in this country. We know that mental health care needs improvement across the board for all people and we support any improvement. In fact, most states only maintained or cut mental health funding in 2015, with only 23 states increasing funds. Cutting funding doesn’t help people who need help.

We’re also concerned about moms. We’re thrilled to see the recommendation for pregnant and new moms to received depression screenings, but we know much more work waits ahead and we want to know how our potential future leaders will handle it. We do a good job of fighting the stigma of maternal mental illness, but there’s a lot more work to be done to help moms with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. So we asked some hard questions of our candidates.

What Moms Would Ask Presidential Candidates About Maternal Mental Health

What Moms Would Ask Presidential Candidates About Maternal Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

Proper mental health care (therapists, meds, psychiatrists) can often seem unattainable because of limited (or no) insurance coverage, high cost, and long wait periods. What do you plan to do to make mental health care attainable for all Americans? -Amber D.

Maternal mental health is a complex and multi-faceted issue that, because of its nature, affects such a wide section of America’s population. A huge part of the struggle is how sadly behind the US is when it comes to basics like paid parental leave. How do you plan to improve our standing when it comes to this? -Amber D.

Doctors in Obstetrics and Gynecology are usually the “first responders” for mothers suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. What will you do to ensure that these doctors are equipped with the knowledge and tools to truly help these women? -Jessica L.

I’ve heard some candidates talking about cutting social security benefits.This is troubling since many people with mental illness depend on social security in order to receive proper treatment. What is your position on this? -Candice B.

Now that the US Preventive Task Force has recommended PPD screening, will you support it being reimbursed for healthcare providers who give the screenings? -Katherine S.

Many moms in underserved communities slip through the cracks due to lack of awareness, cultural bias against mental illness, and other issues. Would you support endeavors to create awareness campaigns and fund mental health care facilitators in these areas? -Jenna H.

Only 23 states increased funding for mental health in 2015. Would you offer incentives to states to create new programs and policies to help those dealing with mental illness? -Jenna H.


We know there are a lot of other issues presented to our candidates. We also acknowledge that citizens votes are based on more than one issue. We feel, however, that in order to serve our families, asking these questions is important. We want our next President to know that mothers and their mental health matter.

What do you want to ask the Presidential candidates about maternal mental health in this country?

Inspired by a great post at The Mighty: 18 Mental Health Questions We Want to Ask the Presidential Candidates.

#ILoveYourMotherhood: Because We Do Love Your Motherhood!

#ILoveYourMotherhood: Because We Do!

Today we’re launching a new hashtag on Instagram: #ILoveYourMotherhood!

(Did you know we’re on Instagram? We are! Follow us!)

As you may know, we’ve worked hard over the past month to grow our account on Instagram. Not just by numbers, though we’ve seen growth there as well, but by interacting with more moms.

The mission of Postpartum Progress is to “create healthier families by raising awareness, reducing stigma, providing social support and connecting mothers to help for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression.” By existing in the social sphere and actively seeking to interact with more moms, we’re raising awareness and reducing stigma. You’re doing the same, every time you share your own story, whether online or with a friend.

As we went about liking, or rather heart-ing your photos on Instagram, we found ourselves drawn to pictures of you, pictures of your children, and pictures of you with your children. Yes, your dog is also cute, but we really love watching you find your footing in motherhood. You post such beautiful photos; you post such real photos. Photos of the hard days, the good days, the boring in between days, the messes, the joy in getting to the messes, the cleaning of the never-ending messes; you share your motherhood with friends, family, and the web at large.

And we love that.

We want to celebrate your motherhood and the ways you’ve chosen to share it online. It’s fine if you share only beautiful photos, celebrating the highlights of your life. It’s fine if you share the nitty gritty, the dark details that also exist. It’s fine if you share the mundane, the not-so-glamorous. We love it all, because it’s yours.

#ILoveYourMotherhood is a way to celebrate you, Warrior Moms, and the way you mother your babies, your children, your now grown adults. It’s a way to celebrate the mother in you. It’s a way for us to acknowledge the hard work you put in to getting to where you are today, even if it’s one step ahead or even two steps back from where you stood just yesterday.

#ILoveYourMotherhood is for the mom who isn’t quite sure she’s doing motherhood “right” just yet, who doubts her every move.

#ILoveYourMotherhood is for the mom who can’t find joy yet in the pictures she shares, but she shares them in hopes of someday looking back and remembering.

#ILoveYourMotherhood is for the mom who is just trying to make it day by day.

#ILoveYourMotherhood is for the mom who finally found herself in motherhood. For the woman who lost herself when she became a mom. For the mom who isn’t sure who she wants to be when she grows up.

#ILoveYourMotherhood is for the Pinterest-happy mom, the slacker mom, the craft-allergic mom, and the “hey-he’s-wearing-clean-underwear” mom.

#ILoveYourMotherhood is for all moms.

We’ll be featuring moms from our community on our Instagram account with the #ILoveYourMotherhood hashtag, regramming (with permission, as always) your photos, and commenting on photos with the hashtag. Anyone can participate, of course, and we hope you’ll use it as a tool to connect and lift up other mothers in your life—because what mom couldn’t use a positive comment on her mothering skills. Honestly.

We’re excited to love your photos, to connect more with you, and to use this as just another way we raise awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The more we talk about the truths of motherhood, the more moms will find support when they need it.

Keep up the good work, moms. Because #ILoveYourMotherhood.

#ILoveYourMotherhood: Because We Do!
Be sure to visit us on Instagram and like our official launch photo, an image from one of Warrior Mom Ambassadors, Samantha Alper Konikoff. You can learn more of her story on Instagram!


Support for Mothers with Postpartum Depression in Nigeria

Last week on Twitter, a tweet flew by me:

A Posptartum Depression Awareness Program for Expectant New Mothers in Nigeria? My curiosity was piqued. I tweeted Kachi and asked for more information.

We had quite the flurry of emails.

Onyedikachi Ekwerike is a First-Class graduate of Psychology from Lagos State University and is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree there in the same field.

Support for Mothers with Postpartum Depression in Nigeria

What made him interested in Postpartum Depression?

“I became hugely interested in postpartum depression after a relative suffered it. She couldn’t name what she was going through and her doctors couldn’t help too. I was however able to detect the problem quickly and helped her get help.”

Kachi said that after he helped his relative, it got him thinking that she couldn’t be the only one experiencing this issue in Nigeria, and he has decided to do something about it.

At the event he held, 150 women attended. They were all screened using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. 40 of these women scored above 10 on the scale, putting the rate of positive returns at 26%. Of those 40, 10 of the women admitted to experiencing suicidal thoughts, according to Kachi. The women who tested positive were referred to clinical psychologists for further help.

“There are plans in place to continue this programme as the feedbacks we’ve received so far has been very encouraging. My goal is to take the training Nationwide as less than 1% of Nigerian women know about these problem.  “

Support for Mothers with Postpartum Depression in Nigeria

I asked Kachi if he had experienced any cultural push back to discussing the issue of postpartum depression. (Mental health is very stigmatized in African countries. A recent NY Times article cast some light on just how stigmatized.) He said no, but offered this:

“However among the women many still believe that the problem is spiritual! So they will rather go to pastors than to Clinical Psychologists to get help.

Another challenge is the field of Psychology is in its infant years here. Not many people know psychologists, and there is so much stigma attached to visiting the psychiatric hospital so they will seldom visit one!! Which is something this awareness programme also aims to address.”

The biggest challenges he faces right now aside from raising awareness? Building a network of knowledgeable professionals and cost. Sound familiar?

I am very happy to have connected with Kachi. He’s doing great things and I strongly believe only has even greater things ahead of him. Keep up the great work!


Images used with permission.

Love & Hip Hop: PPD in the ATL

Love & Hip Hop: PPD in the ATL

Love & Hip Hop: ATL is one of the highest cable rated shows on right now. In a recent episode, one of the cast members, Kalenna, openly discussed her recent diagnosis of postpartum depression.

During the episode, we go to a therapy appointment with both Kalenna and her husband, Tony Vick. You can view the clip of the appointment here: Kalenna Meets With a Therapist

Kalenna starts out by listing her symptoms:

  • Sad
  • Upset
  • Irritable
  • Very short fuse

Sound familiar to anyone? The last two really hit home for me. My fuse was so short it didn’t take much to light it up.

In an aside, Kalenna says the following:

“I’ve been officially diagnosed as having Postpartum Depression and I gotta say that it’s kind of a relief to finally know the truth.”

Again, boom. Knowing what you are fighting, finally, is a tremendous relief. Why? Because it allows you to employ the proper weapons to fight the beast.

What is triggering Kalenna the most?

“They’re killing young black boys every day. I have boys, baby boys…” she says, with tears rolling down her face. She continues, “I don’t want to be that mom on TV, you know… or somebody shot my son… I’m trying to create a different way…”

In this very pointed and direct comment, Kalenna hits on several points which put her at quite an intersection of struggling through new motherhood. As Dr. Motapanyane stated in an email to me after I reached out to her for some insight, “Kalenna is a woman situated at the intersection of at least two identity markers that leave her vulnerable to experiences of marginalization, discrimination, and oppression—she is a woman and she is black. Her family background seems to be working class. Based on this alone, she is likely to be fatigued before she even becomes a mother.”

A’Driane Nieves, blogger at Butterfly Confessions and founder of the Tessera Collective on FB , a mental health empowerment group for Women of Color, noted the inclusion in Kalenna’s statement here regarding police brutality and how racial trauma has affected her as she has become a new mother. Just last week, the Tessera Collective addressed Race based trauma and self-care in their chat. You can read the Storify here.

It is incredibly difficult not to draw parallels as a new mother, particularly as a woman of color, between what is happening to other people of color and the generation for which you are responsible. The exhaustion is oppressive, fatiguing, adding to their fight against any mental health disorder which decides to show up on the doorstep.

Another important issue Kalenna intimates to is the Strong Black Woman Complex. Dr. Motapanyane sums this up as: “Black women, according to this narrative, stoically withstand just about any life challenge. This has compounded the structural mechanisms at a macro level that silence the experiences, needs, and political interests of the most vulnerable women among us.” Therefore, the overwhelming, historic, and expected need to be all and do all for all people. To not allow anyone to see you as weak, something which interferes with the ability to seek help for any mental health issue.

Kalenna nails it in this aside (emphasis mine, meant to reflect her pattern of speech in the clip).

“Therapy is a scary thing. As a Black Woman, I grew up believing you either heal yourself or you go to church. But I’m doing this because I NEED TO. And the truth is? I feel VALIDATED. I’m not crazy. I’m not a hysterical female. I have a TRUE medical condition that exasperates all the stress I’ve been feeling and it steals all the joy away from how I should be feeling about my beautiful baby boy.”

Kalenna goes on, however, according to Dr. Motapanyane, to talk “as if she is a single mother” as she discusses her decision to continue her career. Dr. Motapanyane notes, “She is talking as if she is a single mother. …she constructs this narrative as a means of supporting the argument that she needs her career because it is for the future security of her sons. She cannot seem to say that she needs her career because she simply loves it and it brings her joy, or that she wants a sense of her own financial security independent of her husband.” Again, this may well be the Strong Black Woman Complex rearing its head, or it may be that Tony has several other children with several other women which leaves Kalenna determined to have something of her own.

Kalenna is also socially isolated with little to no support. Tony hasn’t realized how much her music meant to her and what a tremendous outlet it was for her as she navigated through this long weary path of postpartum depression. In fact, the only time Kalenna brightens during the therapy session is when she is discussing how much her music means to her and how it has been an important outlet. She makes mention of pouring everything into the mic.

I want to step out of the flow for a minute and discuss the issue of race and therapy. I was glad that Kalenna took the time to make the statements that “therapy is a scary thing” and followed it up with how she needed to do therapy; how it validated her; how she isn’t crazy. Therapy is often viewed as a “white” thing, and in Staying The Course: Psychotherapy In The African American Community, Dr. Janis Sanchez Hucles states the following:

“…black individuals fear that if they seek formal mental-health assistance, they will be labeled ‘crazy’ or blamed for their problems. Unlike other patients, African-Americans are also reluctant to seek services because of a longstanding tradition that dirty laundry should not be aired to others, and that they must solve their problems on their own.”

In her piece, Dr. Sanchez-Hucles goes on to examine what happens when African Americans when they meet with white therapists.

“When African Americans obtain assistance and meet with a white therapist, they are often fearful that these therapists will be biased, use stereotypes, minimize clients’ experiences of discrimination, and not understand black cultural traditions. Even if a black client has a black therapist, the client may rightly fear that the therapist may be unable to relate to the client due to the differences in education, class, or life experiences.”

This brings up a huge points in the clip with Kalenna, Tony, and the therapist. First, the therapist is an African-American woman who appears to not only understand postpartum depression, but artfully discusses the cultural challenges and racial issues Kalenna faces as complexities with her own struggle therein. For me, and for A’Driane Nieves, this was a huge point.

Overall, while I know that postpartum depression is hell and it takes a lot of strength to fight through it, I am very glad to see that it is being discussed so openly, particularly on a show which has such a cultural intersection—womanhood, motherhood, and navigating the often misogynistic realm of the hip-hop world. Later in the show, Tony and the other men were standing on a creek bank, fishing. Tony was asked how things were going and brought up, freely, Kalenna’s diagnosis. None of the other men seemed shocked, in fact, they seemed to briefly openly discuss it (not in detail, mind you, but without judgment or bias), and gave Tony their support as best they could. For me, that was a huge moment.

We still have a very, very long way to go in removing the stigma of battling against postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, but Love & Hip Hop: ATL just took a HUGE leap forward for all families of color fighting against this insidious true medical condition. Thank you.


Further recommended reading:

Motapanyane, Maki, ed. Mothering in Hip-Hop Culture: Representation and Experience BradfordDemeter Press, 2012.

Sanchez-Hucles, Janis. The First Session With African Americans: A Step-by-Step Guide. Jossey-Bass, 1999.