Mental Health In Color Initiative: Meet The Scholarship Recipients


To recover from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, women of color must be seen and heard without the roadblocks of judgment and bias. But too often, racial differences between clients and providers make an already difficult process even more difficult.

There is a massive shortage of mental health providers who are specialists in maternal mental health, and sadly, that shortage grows exponentially when it comes to providers of color.

We want to help change the landscape of maternal mental health for women of color by investing in the future of Black women. That’s why last year, Postpartum Progress launched the Mental Health in Color Initiative. We are providing training scholarships to mental health providers of color who are interested in expanding their professional expertise into maternal mental health. We believe that this training will improve the standard of care for everyone.

Today, we are proud to announce the program’s first scholarship recipients.

Desirée Israel, LGSW
Desirée Israel is a mental health professional who focuses on postpartum recovery. She has a longstanding commitment to postpartum well-being and is active within the Postpartum Progress community. Her areas of professional focus are on Cognitive Behavioral, NTU Psychotherapy, and holistic energy healing (reiki). Desirée works with the pre and postnatal client populations. She applied to the scholarship in order to deepen her reach and bring effective knowledge to the work she is already doing.   

Collette McLean, LCSW
Collete McLean is a mental health professional who focuses on multiple forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy interventions. Her specialization is in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Combined Parent-Child Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Additionally she employs Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Collette works with college students at a mid-size state school. She applied for the scholarship in order to provide a resource to pregnant college students, a demographic that is often missed and undersupported.

Olivia Baylor, LCPC
Olivia is a mental health professional whose focus is work with LGBTQI couples. Olivia is particularly passionate about this demographic and often sees additional harm shown to LGBTQI identified individuals due to their lack of visibility in maternal mental health work. Olivia’s theoretical approaches are CBT, Narrative Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy. Olivia is also a gender affirming therapist.

As our operating budget grows, it’s our goal to be able to offer even more scholarships in the future. For questions about Postpartum Progress’ Mental Health in Color Initiative, please contact program manager Jasmine Banks at jasminebanks@postpartumprogress.org.

Hiring A Night Nurse Isn’t Lazy or Indulgent. Here’s How It Saved Us.

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Samantha Konikoff, who lives in Bellingham, Washington.   


Eva Amurri Martino and her son. (Photo credit: Eva Amurri Martino on Instagram

While browsing through Facebook this week, I saw a news story about Eva Amurri Martino—the actress, blogger and daughter of Susan Sarandon—who was coming out about the trauma she experienced after a night nurse accidentally fell asleep and dropped her infant son. Thank goodness the baby is just fine.

Without even clicking on the article or comments, I knew that (mostly) women would be throwing stones at Eva because she had a night nurse, a professional hired to care for a baby throughout the night. And sure enough, they were. Commenters scoffed, writing that she is a celebrity and can afford to have someone else raise her baby while “us normal people” do it all on our own.

But why is having a night nurse shunned?

I am not a celebrity. I am middle class. And yet we had a night nurse once a week with our second child. It was the best decision my husband and I ever made, and I believe it helped my mental health.

For five glorious weeks, a night nurse named Nancy was at our house from 10 p.m. on Thursday night until 6 a.m. on Friday. She stayed in our daughter Emma’s room, and when Emma woke up, our nurse Nancy would feed her, change her and rock her, and then leave me notes about it to read when I got up in the morning. We bottle-fed so I didn’t need to be woken up for feedings. If our son (who was 3 at the time) woke up, that was our responsibility. Since she was up all night, she also offered to fold my laundry. Yes, you read that right. When morning came, POOF! Baskets of folded laundry.

When I had my first child, Evan, I experienced postpartum depression/anxiety. One of the triggers was not knowing things and becoming overwhelmed in trying to find the answers. Three years later, when Emma was born, I immediately knew it could happen again. At one point, both kids had colds, and we weren’t sleeping. We needed help.

My mom had a night nurse when I was a newborn in the late 1970s, and she always said how sad she was the day the woman left. And I remembered my friend talking about this amazing night nurse who helped with her twins. My husband and I had received a check from a family member for our daughter’s birth, and we decided this is how the money should be spent.

We hired Nancy when Emma was about five weeks old. She was amazing. She had been doing this for over 25 years and was a kind and sweet and caring woman. During one of her visits, we talked about the postpartum depression I had with my son. She said that with new moms, she always keeps her feelers out for depression, and had dealt with it before.

For the five weeks that Nancy was with us, I had her knowledge at my fingertips any time I needed it. I would call her and ask her about feeding schedules, how to drop a night feeding and whether it was the right time, and how to get the baby to sleep less during the day and more at night. I had an expert at my disposal and that was worth its weight in gold.

I wish that when moms are sent home from the hospital or birth center, or at least at their baby’s first doctor visit, they should be given a list of night nurses.

It truly takes a village to raise our children, and if you can get a postpartum doula, night nurse, family member, or friend to stay up with your baby for a night here or there, I’d say take the sleep. Your mental health may depend on it.

Mental Health in Color Initiative: Training Scholarships

mental health in color initiativeResearch shows people often feel more comfortable seeking help from someone who looks like them. We know that Black moms suffering from symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety face unique challenges. The Postpartum Progress mission includes ALL women and for that reason we have established strategic goals around addressing the very vulnerable women who are not being served by a discriminating system. Most recently we have created tools to empower women of color:

Being seen and heard without the roadblocks of judgment and bias are important in obtaining recovery for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Often the racial differences between client and provider can make an already difficult process even more difficult. All of these providers are also women, because we believe in the unique power and ability for women to help one another.

Postpartum Progress seeks to change the landscape of maternal mental health for women of color by investing in what they need to be well. We are allocating funds to give training scholarships to mental health providers of color who are interested in expanding their professional expertise into maternal mental health. We will provide $2500 each to 4 scholarship recipients to fund their continued education via any one of the specific training programs we’ve chosen. Those training programs include the Postpartum Stress Center’s 12-Hour Post Graduate Training, Postpartum Support International’s 2-day Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder Certificate Training and the Seleni Institute’s 2-day Maternal Mental Health Intensive. We do this with the sole expectation that funding the training of more mental health providers of color to become specialists in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders will improve the standard of care for everyone.

“We know there’s a massive shortage of mental health providers who are specialists in maternal mental health, but that shortage grows a hundredfold when it comes to providers of color. We want the mothers in our community to have access to the help they need, which is why we’re so pleased to be able to launch this scholarship program in 2016 to four Black mental health providers,” said Katherine Stone, founder and CEO of Postpartum Progress Inc. “As our operating budget grows, it’s our goal to be able to offer even more scholarships in the future and to extend them to providers serving marginalized Latinas, the Asian Pacific Islander community and more. And we would ask any entity willing to match our expenditure to join us in this program so that we can expand the number of people who can provide the best care for struggling mothers.”

If you are interested in being considered for Postpartum Progress’ Mental Health in Color 2016 scholarships, please make sure you meet all of the qualifications below. If so, please complete and submit this form by December 19th. We will choose all of our applicants by December 27th.

QUALIFICATIONS

  • You identify as a cis woman, femme, or trans woman
  • You identify as belonging to the Black/African Diaspora and are committed to the well-being of Black people living in the United States.
  • You are a licensed mental health professional or are a candidate for licensure in your state within the next 3 months.
  • You intend to work with women in their childbearing years and are interested in addressing health disparities for communities of color.
  • You have a working knowledge of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders or you are motivated to learn more about them, their impact and treat the women in your community who have them.

For more information or assistance with applying please contact Jasmine Banks at climbout@postpartumprogress.org

I Felt Punished for My Honesty

[Editor’s Note: Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from a mom who felt like she was punished for being honest about her feelings and struggles in the hospital. -Jenna]

I Felt Punished for my Honesty

During my pregnancy, I worried that I was going to develop postpartum depression. I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past. Additionally, I have a master’s in counseling and knew no one is immune.

I endured an emergency c-section, a baby who cried non-stop in the hospital, developed a 102.7 fever, and wound up the in the NICU. Would anyone cope well? I struggled with breastfeeding because my milk was delayed. I also developed pregnancy induced carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. My baby lost 10% of her body weight and I felt awful.

Nurses overheard me telling my husband that I felt like a failure. Before my daughter wound up in the NICU, a kindly nurse suggested I let them take her to the nursery so I could rest when I revealed I was struggling. And feeling overwhelmed. The next day a different nurse was one duty and was judgmental when I requested for a little break.

All of a sudden my midwife came to my room, demanding that I agree to give my daughter formula, and that she would not leave until I agreed to formula and to go on anti-depressants. I felt shocked and said I wanted more time to see if I could breastfeed. Since she was in the NICU being nourished by donor milk, I felt I had time to make this decision.

The nurse again reiterated she would not leave until I agreed and stated, “You are too stressed out to breastfeed. Look what happened, your daughter wound up in the NICU!” I agreed, further convinced this was my fault.

The nurse then called in a psych-consult. I explained the situation to the psychiatrist who encouraged me to go on medication, but not if I wanted to breastfeed. I told him I hoped that breastfeeding would still work out, and I thought most new moms in my situation would be struggling a bit.

I felt like I was being punished because I was honest about how I was feeling and asked for help. I felt shame that, as a counselor, I had a psych-consult on me. I felt that the professionals’ reactions to my honesty were coming from a risk management perspective versus a place of help and support. I envied the women who were “smart” enough to suffer silently because they were not punished or made to feel like a bad mother for wanting to breastfeed or asking for help.

My daughter was fine, and once she was properly nourished, she was released with a clean bill of health. I felt traumatized by the experience and was completely stressed out trying to breastfeed. I felt terribly guilty that because I could not manage my stress, she wound up in the NICU. I had no confidence and was afraid to be alone with my daughter.

It is hard to say if I would have developed postpartum depression if it were not for my experience in the hospital. My daughter is now three-and-a-half years, and I feel it has only been recently that I can think of the experience without getting teary eyed.

As a counselor, I have been trained about the importance of being honest with my feelings and asking for help but the help I received felt punitive and hurtful. Three and a half years later, I have an awesome, healthy, and feisty little girl and continue to be honest about my feelings so other moms don’t feel so alone.

~NRB