Introducing Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support Forums

postpartum progress online peer supportThis has been a long time coming, mamas, but we’re thrilled to introduce Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support Forums!

When I started out as the coordinator for our Warrior Mom® Ambassador program, the one thing I wanted was to create online peer support forums for Postpartum Progress. Today, this dream becomes a reality.

Thanks to Facebook and its groups capabilities, we’re now offering EIGHT(!!) regional support groups for moms suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis, and postpartum PTSD.

Our online peer support forums have been divided and assigned based on geographic regions because we realize that resources and postpartum need varies around the world. Yep. World.

In addition to offering US support, we’re also opening Canadian and International support groups to reach moms around the globe.

Why Facebook for Online Peer Support?

Well, why not? Facebook boasts more than one billion members on the platform, and it’s where many moms find us and their place in our community. We believe in reaching moms where they are and making it easy for them to find support when they need it.

If a mom is online at 2 in the morning, feeding a baby, or unable to sleep, we want to give her a place to go, and chances are, she’s already on Facebook, scrolling through the newsfeed. Now she’ll have a safe space to say what she needs to say about what she’s experiencing, or she’ll be able to read the experiences of other mothers and know she’s not alone.

What About Smart Patients?

Our Smart Patients postpartum depression forum will continue to exist and operate just as it always has. In fact, we believe we’ll see growth there as we’re better able to refer moms who need a little extra support from Heather, our forum moderator, and the Smart Patients staff.

We just believe there can never be too much support for moms, so now we’re offering both.

What Can I Expect?

Our online peer support forums will be moderated by volunteer Warrior Mom® Ambassadors who have completed Mental Health First Aid training. They’ll be the frontline contact for moms seeking support.

Moms will request membership into the group for their geographic region. Our WMA volunteers will reach out to them to provide a copy of our guidelines and welcome them to the group.

Posts will be held in moderation until they can be reviewed by a forum moderator. We want to make sure we protect moms in the forums from potentially triggering information. We believe this will allow us to maintain a spirit of trust and safety in the space.

We know that some of these groups cover large territories, and our plan is that as the groups grow, we’ll subdivide as necessary. For now, choose the group corresponding to your state or geographic region and request membership! (Please only join the group corresponding to your state or geographic region!)

Where Is My Group?

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Northeastern RegionConnecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and DC

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Southern RegionAlabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Southwest Region: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – West Coast Region: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington State

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Midwest Region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Rocky Mountain RegionColorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Canada

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – International

The research is clear: peer support works to help people overcome their battles with not just maternal mental illness, but mental illness in general. There is power in sharing our lived experiences with others.

At Postpartum Progress, we believe in being innovators, and we know that online peer support is just as relevant and important as face-to-face.

In fact, everyone who works for Postpartum Progress, every Warrior Mom® in our community, every leader for Climb Out of the Darkness, we’re all here because of the Internet. We know the collective power of online communities for support and healing and we’re excited to have you on this new journey with us.

Postpartum Progress at 2nd Annual PPD Awareness Day

Postpartum Progress at the Massachusetts State House for the 2nd Annual PPD Awareness Day

On June 14th State Representative Ellen Story and Massachusetts State Senators Joan Lovely and Bruce Tarr hosted the second annual PPD Awareness Day at the Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts. Postpartum Progress was thrilled to be a co-sponsor of this event that brought together stakeholders in maternal mental health from across the Commonwealth to share their expertise and knowledge.

There were many state legislators and non-profit organizations present, as well as care providers and representatives from local hospitals. The event works to raise legislative awareness of PPD and related illnesses and increase access to the various services available in the state.

Postpartum Progress at the Massachusetts State House for the 2nd Annual PPD Awareness Day

Postpartum Progress founder and CEO Katherine Stone and Warrior Mom Margaret Rice spoke during the program. Also speaking were Dr. Jayne Singer from the Brazelton Institute, Maria Merced and Yaquelin Ocana from the Lynn Community Health Center, Cate Johannessen from the Every Mother Project, Dr. Michael Yogman, and State Secretary Marylou Sudders.

The speakers shared how their individual organizations and programs are meeting the needs of families across Massachusetts, specifically those women and their families who are underserved and at high risk for PPD or another maternal mental illness.

Margaret Rice | Postpartum Progress at the Massachusetts State House for the 2nd Annual PPD Awareness Day

Margaret began by describing her personal experience with postpartum anxiety and OCD. Her honest description of the symptoms she faced while her first child was still a newborn resonated with the other survivors in the room and helped the care providers understand how lonely and lost a new mom can feel. Most impactful, she highlighted a huge gap in community supports by explaining that when looking for peer support, she was unable to find a support group available after her working hours. When she turned online for support, she found Postpartum Progress and realized she was not alone.

In town for the Concord Climb Out of the Darkness®, Katherine spoke about how Postpartum Progress is supporting the families in Massachusetts and how our Warrior Moms are able to reach thousands of women with our online programs, in-person events, and educational tools. Katherine described how reading the work of Dr. Jean Watson Driscoll was the first time she heard anyone speak of postpartum anxiety and OCD in a way that let her know someone understood. She pointed out that seeking help for mental illness is often not linear, making the argument for professional social media and online networks that help direct women to services and help.

She spoke about downloads of the New Mom Checklist, distribution of over 71,000 Hugs Cards, and the over 2.6 million blog pageviews in 2015; and she thanked providers like Mara Acel-Green, Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Women’s Mental Health, and the Lynn Community Health Center who go above and beyond to help families struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. And most importantly, she emphasized the hard work of volunteers like Candice Brothers, Molly Lawney, Ashley Fitzroy, Margaret Rice, Alexia Johnstone, and Joyce Miner. Postpartum Progress’s mission of “Together, Stronger,” speaks to how state and national initiatives and organizations can work to empower every new mom, across the globe.

Being a guest at the 2nd Annual Bringing PPD into the Light was an honor and a privilege, and we’d like to thank Representative Ellen Story and State Senators Joan Lovely and Bruce Tarr and their staffs for inviting Postpartum Progress to co-sponsor this amazing event. We’d also like to acknowledge the hard work of the Massachusetts State PPD Commissioners as well as the incredible co-sponsors who work tirelessly to help new families: MotherWoman, Every Mother Project, Birth To Three Family Center, and the Cape and Islands Maternal Mental Health Taskforce.

We know Massachusetts moms are reaching out for help, and we are so fortunate that there is a network of support we can turn to to make sure they get the care they deserve.

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

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.