Postpartum Progress Has Voice Heard at #NatCon16

[Editor’s Note: This past week, Postpartum Progress attended NatCon16, held March 7-9th in Las Vegas. Our Program Manager for Education and Training was invited by the National Council for Behavioral Health to attend as a “Twitter Ambassador,” live-tweeting sessions and events. We were honored to attend and thrilled to be asked to bring the patient perspective to what is the largest conference on behavioral and addiction health care in the United States. If you missed our live stream, you can catch up with these Storify collections on the following sessions tweeted by Susan Petcher and others during the event on the National Council’s website. -Jenna]

Postpartum Progress Has Voice Heard at #NatCon16 -postpartumprogress.com

During the very first session of NatCon16, I slipped into the fourth row from the back, one of over 4,000 attendees, and felt tiny and insignificant. I listened in wonderment to NCBH President and CEO Linda Rosenburg as she opened up the annual conference for behavioral and addiction healthcare, staring at my NatCon badge and backstage pass. After all, only seven years ago, I was a crumpled shell of myself, sobbing on the floor next to the brown Graco bassinet after screaming at my newborn baby to “JUST GO TO SLEEP!”

Linda spoke of the progress and momentum of the last ten years, and I found myself tweeting this:


I have to admit; a part of me wondered why I belonged in the room. 4,000 clinicians, directors of organizations, political leaders, and experts on mental illness surrounded me, and I was just a mom, just a PPD survivor. I was just somebody who had once been a patient. Though Postpartum Progress was invited by the National Council to broadcast the sessions to the social media world, I was facing a serious case of impostor syndrome.

That all changed when I got a text from a friend and fellow Warrior Mom, checking in and reminding me that she believed in me. In that moment, I was empowered, yet again, by this amazing community, and reminded that we can do great things. I thought of each and every writer who came before me on the Postpartum Progress blog, the moms whose words saved my life. I thought of each Climb Out of the Darkness® team leader and climber and each Warrior Mom® Conference attendee and was reminded of their courage and kindness.

We do big, brave, amazing things here at Postpartum Progress, and we absolutely deserved a seat at the table. And so, I soaked up every moment, every introduction, and every opportunity to brag about the work of my peers.

NatCon is an enormous event, with over 180 sessions, and over 4,000 attendees. Session tracks included Peer, Prevention, & Recovery (which was the track we live-tweeted), Trauma-Informed Care, Workforce Management, Public Policy, Population Health, Crisis Response, Criminal Justice, and Children and Youth. Five Twitter Ambassadors covered the various tracks, splitting up the schedule, and meeting occasionally to check in and share what we learned. I am so grateful for the generous and kind leadership at the National Council for bringing us together and for their support throughout the event. I expected to leave NatCon with professional connections, but am pleased to have also brought home friendships.

As I live-tweeted sessions about hope and wellness, the origins of Mental Health First Aid (with the two founders!), the importance of the patient voice in the mission to break down stigma, the power of introverts in a world that values extroversion, partnering with faith communities, the science of addition, and more, I was struck by the message of whole-person treatment that echoed again and again. This is something we know well at Postpartum Progress, Warrior Moms. You are more than your PMAD, and you deserve to be well. I’ll talk more about this idea in Part Two of our NatCon16 coverage later this week.

As the message of person-centered behavioral healthcare grew stronger, I grew bolder in my role as an Ambassador for both the National Council and Postpartum Progress. I shook hands with the amazing Elyn Saks, known from her TED Talk with over 2.7 million views, telling her how grateful I was for her message of patient empowerment, and sharing about our work at Postpartum Progress. I visited with Natasha West from Stamp Out Stigma about the power of social media and sharing our stories. I thanked Dr. Ann Becker-Schutte for her contributions to #PPDChat seven years ago that helped save my life, and I cried in front of New York Times columnist Charles Blow after asking him to speak to the doubts of a Warrior Mom that she would ever be more than “forever broken.”


Of course, I felt most at ease with my fellow advocates and those who know what it’s like to live with a mental illness. Jenn Marshall, the co-founder of This is My Brave; Allen Doederlein, President of DBSA; and Patrick Lawson from 3Words all greeted me with the kind of hugs only another survivor can give. They immediately recognized a shared vision and dogged commitment to peer support and advocacy, and the time I spent with them inspired a million ideas even as I made the long journey back home to my family.

I want you to know, Warrior Moms, that our voice was heard last week. Our messages of empowerment and peer support was received with respect and news of all you do was met with awe. We even made the NatCon Times both Tuesday and Wednesday during the conference!

What you do every day, whether it’s taking a deep breath and taking care of yourself as you fight through your own struggle, or reaching out to another family in need matters. And after attending NatCon16, I’m even more convinced of the need for us to speak up and share not only our stories, but also our amazing work.

 

Many thanks to the staff of the National Council for Behavioral Health for the opportunity to attend the conference and represent Postpartum Progress, with special thanks to Alicia Aebersold, Meaghon Reid, Besty Schwartz, Ali Siemianowski, and Hannah Coen.

Join Us for #NatCon16

Join Us for #NatCon16

In October, we announced our partnership with National Council for Behavioral Health—the largest organization for mental health and addiction recovery in the Unites States, connected to policy change and awareness programs. From About the National Council: “The National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery.”

Our partnership with NCBH partnership provides scholarships for Mental Health First Aid training, an evidence-based education program for mental health and addiction literacy as well as first aid response.

We’re pleased to report that through this program, we have awarded 5 Mental Health First Aid Instructor scholarships and 105 Mental Health First Aid Course Scholarships. To date, we have trained 13 Warrior Moms as First Aiders and 2 Warrior Moms as MHFA Instructors. Each MHFA Instructor will teach classes in their own local communities, and we’ll have information coming soon about how you can take a MHFA class with a Postpartum Progress volunteer!

Our moms tell us that the classes provide a solid basis for peer support as well as crisis intervention – and that they feel more prepared to help the moms that reach out to them online and in person.

“I was really surprised at how much I liked it. They gave us local resources and numbers to call when we are helping someone through a crisis.”

“I thought it was pretty thorough. I liked that it forced me to think about other situations outside PPD. I also think that I have a better general understanding of some of the other issues, including drug and alcohol abuse and how it relates to mental illness.”

“I liked the general idea of ALGEE. It was a simple way to give us a way to approach and help people. It will work in any situation.”

This week, the National Council holds #NatCon16, a conference for mental healthcare providers, thought leaders, policy makers, and nonprofit leaders in mental health and addiction services. Postpartum Progress is attending as an official Twitter Ambassador for the event, which means our Warrior Moms will have access to all the happenings, news, and even some time backstage with some VIP presenters.

You won’t want to miss out. Keep up with all the action by following us over at @postpartumprog on twitter and searching the hashtag #NatCon16. We’ll be sure to fill you in with a #NatCon16 summary next week, so check back and learn along with Postpartum Progress.

Inform, Empower, Act: Why Research Matters

Inform, Empower, Act: Why Research Matters -postpartumprogress.com

I’ve been there. Sitting at home with a new baby; shaking with anxiety, unable to eat, sleep, or think clearly enough to put one foot in front of the other. You turn on your computer or pull out your phone and visit Google and start to research your symptoms. The overwhelming amount of information that comes back leaves you confused, frightened or maybe even in disbelief. So much of it uses words and terminology you don’t understand and only further adds fuel to the fire.

Taking a trip down the Google “rabbit hole” is where a lot of us start to find bits and pieces of information that make our symptoms start to make sense. Though you may think what you’re reading is official and credible, you may actually be looking at someone’s opinion supported by research that is incomplete or one-sided. One article or study may contradict the other, and you stumble across horror stories about medication and its side effects, trips to the hospital, and claims that postpartum mood disorders like postpartum depression aren’t real or can be solved through diet changes and exercise alone.

That’s why we work so hard at Postpartum Progress to bring you credible, relevant, evidence-based academic and scientific research about postpartum depression, treatment options and maternal mental health. The more information we can share with our Warrior Mom community, the better positioned you are to help yourself and your family. There are three important reasons why research matters to you and all our Warrior Moms.

Inform

Information is power. It really, really is. The more you can learn about your diagnosis or symptoms, the better positioned you are to take control of your health. Postpartum Progress has a growing collection of research articles available on our website as well as tools like the New Mom Checklist that you can download and use when visiting your doctor.

Right now we are developing partnerships with academic and medical researchers in the United States and Canada to do actual research with our Warrior Moms! Not only will this work help you to understand your experience better, it will also help in developing better treatment options for all mamas. We will also be continuing our partnership with Iodine and encouraging you to take a look at their Start app for your iOS smartphone.

Empower

When you have information and tools literally in your hands as you discuss your health with your doctor, you can play a big part in deciding what treatment options are best for you. This sense of empowerment is so important for women struggling with postpartum mood disorder because many of us feel completely out of control. You’ll feel more confident when talking about how you’re feeling or sharing your concerns about medication and side effects.

While we’re working to get our Warrior Moms involved in scientific studies we are also advocating having a seat at the same table as policy makers, the media and large health care organizations to advocate for the patient voice; the voice of our community and the issues that really matter to mamas. Each of you has a story filled with courage and bravery that will always serve as one of the main reason why we fight to end stigma and get moms the treatment they deserve.

Act

Depression lies and tells you that your situation is hopeless. There is nothing you can do. You’re stuck. You’re alone. You’re never going to get better. Research gives us the information to talk back to depression and stop it dead in its tracks. Being informed and empowered gives you the chance to act—and take back your life. We know (and research tells us) that small actions, whether it’s taking your medication every day, going for a walk, joining a peer support group or even just getting out of bed, start to build positive forward momentum. Eventually your bad days become fewer and you start to feel like yourself again.

Taking action to treat your mood disorder takes courage and no two mamas’ road to recovery will look the same. What works for one might not work for you—and that’s okay. Taking action puts you back in the driver’s seat and lets you work with your doctor to develop a plan that works for you and your life.

Look for more information related to research opportunities for you and other Warrior Moms to get involved in over the next few months. More research means better treatment options—and we can all agree this is something worth fighting for.

What kind of research is important to you? Do you want more information and study about mood disorders and treatment options, including medication and alternatives? Are researchers asking the right questions? In what ways can Warrior Moms become more involved in research opportunities?

Announcing the Postpartum Progress 2015 Impact Report

We’re so pleased to share some of the things Postpartum Progress was able to accomplish in 2015 thanks to the amazing work of our team, our volunteers, our partners, and our donors. We are continuing to grow and expand our capacity to reach more mothers, and we’re so grateful to everyone who is helping us along the way.

We’ve created an infographic to give you a handy way to check out what happened last year (a full report, including financials, will also be available soon). Here’s a preview of what the infographic contains.

Postpartum Progress 2015 Impact Report: Getting the Word Out

Postpartum Progress 2015 Impact Report Preview

You can view the full Postpartum Progress 2015 Progress Report here.

We did so much in 2015, and we’re so excited to accomplish even more in 2016. If you’d like to join us and help us accomplish those goals, you can attend the 2016 Warrior Mom Conference, become a become a Warrior Mom Ambassador or join our 2016 Climb Out of the Darkness. (Email climbout@postpartumprogress.org if you’d like to become a leader.) Or do all of the above!

We want to thank everyone who has donated, participated, shared our information, and furthered our mission 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. We couldn’t have done any of this without you; we couldn’t have helped as many moms with postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders without you.

Here’s to 2016!