Postpartum Progress Announces Mental Health First Aid Training

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 12.54.10 PMPostpartum Progress is thrilled to announce our newest program: the Mental Health First Aid Training Warrior Mom Scholarship!

Our Warrior Mom volunteers are at the heart of everything we do. We hear, time and time again, that after sharing stories about your personal experiences with PPD and related illnesses, women in your communities turn to you as sources of support. You are often faced with questions about diagnoses and treatments. You are asked to listen to the stories of new moms who are struggling, and to take on roles as mentors and friends. You are asked for help finding providers. For years, you’ve been telling us you’re concerned about knowing the best way to respond to those who need help.

Well, we’ve heard you!

We are so pleased to tell you that we’ve partnered with the National Council for Behavioral Health and will be providing scholarships for Mental Health First Aid Training to 100 Warrior Mom volunteers and Mental Health First Aid Instructor Certification to 5 Warrior Mom volunteers from across the United States.

The partnership will allow Postpartum Progress to provide scholarships for the National Council’s Mental Health First Aid Training that will lead to the total training of 400 maternal mental health peer supporters between now and the end of 2016. It also will form the foundation for future evidence-based trainings and peer-to-peer supporter education for Postpartum Progress volunteers. This is the first national effort to bring Mental Health First Aid training specifically to the peer support community of survivors of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders across the US.

What is Mental Health First Aid Training?

Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that can help individuals across the community to understand mental illnesses, support timely intervention and save lives. The program is an 8-hour class developed by the National Council for Behavioral Health to teach participants how to help someone who is experiencing an ongoing mental health problem or crisis. Participants will learn signs of addiction and mental illness, the impact of mental and substance abuse disorders, a 5-step action plan to assess a situation and help, and local resources they can provide to women who may need further assistance. Mental Health First Aid is a nationally recognized, evidence-based program.

I’m already looking for how I can participate. How can I apply?

Am I eligible to participate?

  • Scholarships are open PMAD survivors, advocates, and members of the Postpartum Progress community.
  • Participation in Climb Out of the Darkness® or the Warrior Mom™ Conference is not required but will factor into participant selection.
  • Though we love our international Warrior Moms (and we do!), we are only able to offer scholarships for trainings in the US for now.

Questions?  Email Susan at


The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with 2,300 member organizations, it serves more than eight million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. The organization is committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and have trained 450,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities. To learn more about the National Council, visit

When Postpartum Depression Makes You a Stranger to Yourself

for p p dSeeing someone struggling through postpartum depression and anxiety cracks my heart wide open. I don’t care if I’m a stranger to them or not, I want to take their hands into mine and tell them to trust me.

I want them to believe me when I tell them I have been where they are, in that frightening place when you’re filled more with fear and pain than strength. When you look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person looking back.

I want them to listen when I say that I have lived in the skin they are in now, when you are not who you used to be.

I have walked through those days, those hard days, when you’re too frightened to look anyone in the eye because you don’t want them to see straight through to the dark despair and hopelessness that fill your head.

I have been there. The days of pulling clothes out of the closet and letting them fall over my body, wondering where the person is who used to wear them. I remember sitting in the driver’s seat of my car and it didn’t feel like it belonged to the person who now sat there.

These days are anything but easy. Living through postpartum depression is harder than we can ever explain. We struggle to give words to the choking jumble of our thoughts. We want to be heard, but when someone asks us to tell them how they can help, we can only break down in tears.

Postpartum depression is a wall that hides our strength from us. It won’t let light in so we are unable to see how tough we are. The dark clouds of this time block the real view, the one that would show our determination to get better.

We are still there, behind the empty sadness in our eyes, there is the fight and fire we need to recover. We are imperfect in this life, we are lost, confused and we are more scared than we have ever been. When our lives become survival for one moment at a time, our souls can’t rest to see the beautiful spirit of survival that lives within us.

I want those in the heartbreaking midst of postpartum depression to trust me, as hard as it is. We need to believe that inside we have what we need to make it through. It’s a leap of faith, a desperate grab at hope, but it’s necessary.

I want them to hear this message of hope, so that they fight, so that they keep fighting. Because it is the promise of hope that someone asked me to believe in during my own postpartum depression, that saved me.

You will see this through to the other side.
You’re not alone.
You will find yourself again.

Someone once promised me that I would be myself again. I was too scared to believe that who I once was, was still there. What if I wasn’t going to get better? What I would have told the frightened new mom that I was back then, would be this, You may feel like you’re in a thousand irretrievable pieces right now–too broken beyond anything that can be made whole again. But believe that you will heal.

You will find happiness again. The numbness will lift one day and you will hear yourself laugh. The sound of it will surprise you so much that you’ll laugh a second time from the joy of it. You will look in the mirror one morning, and this time the eyes you see back will dance and shine. And you will come back stronger than you ever thought you could be.

You are still there, inside.

Even if now you feel lost, scared and alone, you are there.

Please let my words here be the ones that take you by the hand and hold you until you are back home again. Reach out, ask for help, don’t stop until you feel you are getting the care you need. Believe that with time, professional care and treatment, and the support of your PPD community, that the help you need to find the way back to you again will be there.

The incredible you that you used to be is still there. You will find yourself again. And just as I did, you will smile again.

Why These Women Are Climbing Out of the Darkness of PPD

climbing out of the darknessThis weekend, Postpartum Progress’ 3rd annual Climb Out of the Darkness will take place in cities in towns throughout the world. Some of the women participating, all of whom are survivors of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like PPD, have shared with us why they are Climbing. I know many of you will recognize your story in theirs, and I hope it inspires you to keep climbing out of the darkness.

Because I was very excited to be a mom.
Because I was told how wonderful it would be.
Because it was the complete opposite of wonderful.
Because I thought it was “just the Baby Blues.”
Because I knew it would be hard, but not miserable.
Because I felt like I was existing inside a great big cobweb of quiet anger.
Because I was terrified of that anger.
Because I wanted to reach out, but felt like nobody could truly see me or hear me.
Because I was faking it every day.
Because I was ashamed of how I felt.
Because I wanted to nurture and connect with my son, but the more I tried to connect, the more disconnected I became.
Because I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
Because my husband and I existed with a lonely chasm between us due to my inability to express what was happening inside of me.
Because I waited 15 months to find help.
Because Postpartum Progress was instrumental to my recovery.
Because I climbed out of the darkness of postpartum depression!
Because I love my son and my husband more than anything.
Because other moms need to know they are not alone in the darkness…
Because it’s scary to share the truth.
Because … I am a Warrior Mom! ~ Ali

I Climb for my daughter, my husband, my parents, and my in-laws. This was my support system in my darkest time. They were there when I wasn’t there mentally, emotionally or physically. They came to therapy and psychiatric appointments. They visited me in the hospital. They kept my daughter healthy and alive when I couldn’t. They woke up with me to feed Sophia. They kept calm and cool in a situation that should’ve driven them crazy with worry. They have my utmost gratitude and love.

I Climb for myself. Somehow I survived an ordeal that rattled my brain and mentality to points this depression sufferer never thought imaginable. I battled by going to therapy, admitting myself into the hospital and taking my meds. I came out stronger.

I Climb for other mothers who have, are or may suffer … To be their support, to show them they are not alone. There is a whole Warrior Mom Family out there to lean on. ~ Stephanie

Because I want better for every woman, child and family.  ~ Kristen

Because a co-worker once told me that only selfish people get PPD, and sadly her complete ignorance is not that uncommon.  ~ Teresa

My ‘baby’ turns 11 today. His pregnancy was what brought me here, to all of you. I was not sure we would make it through, but we did and EVERY SINGLE birthday he has makes me so very grateful. ~ Lara

My daughter turns two on Friday, and Monday will mark two years since my world was turned upside down by postpartum anxiety. I’ve been looking back at photos from when she was tiny and my heart breaks remembering how much I missed in my swamp of anxiety. And, because I expect so much more of myself than I’d ever expect of anyone else, I struggle with the knowledge that I STILL, two years later, am not back to “normal.” So, this week, I’m especially thankful for Postpartum Progress and all of you wonderful ladies. I’m grateful that I have a place to go when I’m feeling lost–a place where I know I’ll be understood. This is why I Climb, so that ALL mothers may know that they have a safe place too. ~ Amber

Because when I had my first I had NO idea what was wrong with me … I was even “taught” about PPD In a parenting class in high school. The only thing I ever heard about was a woman wanting to hurt herself or her baby. I was the complete opposite. I had a debilitating fear. After my second was born I hit rock bottom, and I started to realize how incredibly lucky I am to live in Grand Rapids. The support here is unlike anywhere. I now have a deep passion for working with moms with PPD, being involved makes me feel like I’m making a tiny difference in someone’s life. I want to be apart of the change, and I want every city in the world to have the kind of help and support that we have in GR. Women deserve it. ~ Tabitha

I climb for my brother, sister-in-law and my nephew. I climb to support them and also to encourage others to get help with postpartum depression. I climb because it doesn’t just affect the mom in the family, it takes it’s toll on dad and baby, too. I climb because both of my sisters-in-law have experienced PPD, and they are worth speaking up for. I climb because of the countless friends who have suffered in silence, who had nowhere to turn. I climb because even though I can’t conceive a child I know the impact of a new baby on a family. I climb because Topeka has very few resources to help new moms with PPD. ~ Melanie

I’m climbing because I was ashamed to be diagnosed and I waited forever to get help because of it. I am climbing because I want to help find those moms that are afraid to say anything and tell them there is power in their voice.

I climb because there was a point in time where I did not want to be here anymore; and thankfully, I survived that to be the advocate I am today.

And most importantly, I climb because there is a strong genetic link to my diagnosis, and I want my little girl to know it’s okay to ask for help. And if she does get PPD I want her to know it’s okay to seek treatment and that I will be here to guide her along the way! ~ Christina

I climb because I know what the darkest pit looks like and now I know what the top (or at least close) looks like. I climb because I know how it feels to think you can’t take another step and continue pushing further up that hill. I climb because I know what it feels like to think you have no hope and I know what it feels like to find Postpartum Progress and realize that I am not alone. And finally, I climb because without this group and without this climb, I don’t know where I would be but today I can stand here, loving my two babies more than anything in the world, and hopefully help others who are or have been in the same place. ~ Rebecca

I grew up without my mom present in my life and I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to grow up with a healthy mom and I want moms everywhere to get help even if they aren’t feeling strong enough to seek it out themselves. I want them all to know that self-care is not selfish. Postpartum Progress helped save me. I’m so glad I’m still here for these cuties! ~ Lucy

I’m climbing for myself and every mother who has struggled with postpartum depression and other perinatal mental illnesses.

I’m climbing to raise awareness and erase the stigma attached to mental illness. When a woman becomes a mother she expects (and is expected) to be on cloud nine. When she doesn’t feel ecstatic, it can be very upsetting. And when a mother feels absolutely awful it can cause her to become reclusive.

Society makes it so hard for women to admit that their thoughts and emotions aren’t normal because they feel shame. I want to change that ~ Jolene

I am “climbing” because I know the struggles of depression. Everyone deserves to have a “winning” chance at life. Your support team, whether it’s the community, family, friends, church, therapist, or coworkers can make a huge difference to finding a path that’s right for you to succeed. This group can help so many that struggle with PPD and is an outlet where they can not only receive help, but find some kind of normalcy. ~ Christal

I climb because I worked HARD to get here. My family is strong because I am, they have traveled this road with me! I push every day to climb out of the darkness! ~ Heidi

I am climbing for my two little superheroes. Because they saved me in so many ways. ~ Avery

I climb so others don’t feel alone. I am 16 weeks pregnant and am hopeful that I have the knowledge to make my next postpartum period much better even if PPD comes back. Knowledge is my fight song. ~Alicia

I climb for mamas and families who have struggled and who might struggle. I felt so alone during my battle and I’d give anything to help another mama not feel that way. ~ Anna

I’m climbing for my little peanut and for all the mamas out there fighting! Six months postpartum! I thought I’d never get to this point or feel like myself again. So grateful for my support team and Postpartum Progress! ~ Sylvia

I am Climbing so that other moms can also enjoy moments like this without guilt or shame over all the moments they missed because of postpartum depression and anxiety. So that every last mother who wonders if her illness ruined her child forever can be present enough to realize that the answer is an emphatic “no.” So that the hundreds of thousands of us who were and are in the darkness of mental illness – and all those who love us – can rise up to bring each other into the light of transparency and community. ~ Bethany

I am in the midst of recovery again, though light years ahead of where I was four years ago. So this year, I Climb for myself, my two incredible daughters and the husband that has been my rock throughout both struggles. I Climb for the mothers who are suffering silently in shame, and those suffering who don’t even know that this is not how motherhood is supposed to be. And most importantly I talk to anyone that will listen, in the hopes that anyone who knows a mom that may benefit from my experience can and will share it. ~ Lesley

Why I climb…
– in celebration of coming through hell
– in thanksgiving for the deep love I now have for my son
– in support of all the other mamas out there who struggle
– to make people aware of the seriousness of PPD and related illnesses
– because “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more” that maternal mental illnesses aren’t taken seriously by some, and that so many medical providers have no idea how to handle any cases they encounter.
– to show that I’m a SURVIVOR and a WARRIOR ~ Mariah

Why I climb… Because I miss “me.” Because my husband misses “me.” And my kids should know the full “me,” too. ~ Jessica

I climb because 4 years ago I was crippled in fear of my thoughts. I could not move, nor did I want to.
But Postpartum Progress opened my eyes and had me name my illness, postpartum OCD & depression.
There is hope, it is not permanent. ~ Chrissy

As of this morning, there are more than 2,100 Climbers registered to participate in Climb Out of the Darkness, and they have raised $191,000 for Postpartum Progress. If you’d like to register to join us or to donate to help us reach our $200,000 goal this year, visit

Photo credit: Fotolia/jessivanova


Cultural Beliefs that May Affect Asian American Moms’ Emotions After Birth

Asian woman in New York City sad face

The title of “Mother” is a universal label suggesting that women who identify as mothers share the same personalities, characteristics, and preferences. Yet when we think about mothers, it is important to remember that each mother is an individual. How each woman approaches and embraces motherhood is largely informed by her familial and cultural lineage. Historical mothering practices are passed down through generations and shape her cultural narrative. These familial stories inform how she views her pregnancy, childbirth, and how she wishes to be cared for during the postpartum period.

Postpartum mood concerns are the number one complication of childbirth affecting between 15-17% of mothers. We know that perinatal mood concerns impact women of all cultural, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Several variables, such as hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, social support, and one’s own personal and family mental health history can impact a woman’s risk of developing a postpartum mood concern, such as depression or anxiety.

As health care practitioners, when we care for racially diverse women, there are several unique cultural variables that may affect a woman’s emotional well-being after her baby is born. These cultural variables are especially important to tune into, because as health care professionals we serve at the forefront of maternal care. When a mother suffers from a perinatal mood concern, it’s often obstetricians, pediatricians and midwives that are the first to notice something is awry. Educating oneself about common cultural beliefs and patterns helps build and maintain trust with new mothers and their families. This trust helps ensure that providers have the repertoire that is necessary to recommend additional psychological support when it is needed most.

There are unique nuances and a diverse array of birthing rituals and practices; here are a few examples that are common within Asian cultures:

Gender of the baby: For some families, the root of male preference is deeply imbedded in cultural beliefs. The belief is that a male child will extend the bloodline, and that sons will care for their aging parents. In certain cultures, having a female child adds pressure financially and emotionally,  because it is believed that the daughter will marry and contribute to another family. Depending upon familial cultural beliefs and practices, a woman may feel a range of emotions if she is not having the son her family desires. It’s important to note that in some Asian cultures, gender of the child may be correlated with perinatal depression.

Hot-Cold Beliefs: In certain Asian cultures, it is believed that a new mother should be in a state of “hot and cold” balance during the postpartum period. If a woman is too cold it is believed that this may slow down lactation and interfere with maternal bonding. Hot and cold practices are represented not only in temperature but also in how certain foods increase or reduce heat in our bodies. In the Western cold, women are often offered cold beverages during labor and following childbirth. However, these offerings may not be aligned with the cultural need to maintain the balance of warmth. Health care professionals can sensitively attune to these beliefs by asking women to specify their preferences for hot/cold beverages/food in their hospital birth plans. Adding these small details helps build and maintain trust during the very sensitive postpartum period.

Maternal Confinement: The belief system behind keeping a mom “confined” for up to 40 days is to aid in the recovery of childbirth. This is an opportunity for maternal bonding and for family members to provide support and security for the mothers as way to alleviate outside stress. Mehndi (also known as henna, aids in cooling, and is an herb that is applied on the hands and feet in an intricate design) helps remind the mother that she should rest until the design fades. The importance of the maternal bond is reflected in this practice. Here, the mother devotes her attention to the bond with her baby without the outside distractions and other demands in life. It’s important to note that in the Western world following childbirth, the focus shifts towards the baby. However, in many Asian cultures, the mother remains a focal point after her baby’s arrival. These practices may impact how quickly a new mother ventures out into the world and which recommendations she’s apt to find supportive during the new days and weeks of motherhood.

As healthcare providers, the more we educate ourselves about various cultural practices and the meaning of these practices, the more we can advocate for our diverse patient populations. As providers, we become strong advocates when we ask sensitive questions related to our patient’s cultural beliefs and how these beliefs impact motherhood. Supporting a woman in a way that culturally aligns with her view of motherhood can be a universal practice.


Dr. Bindu Garapaty is a leader in the Maternal Child Health arena. She is also the co-founder of The Happy Leader, a firm focused on executive leadership development. You can connect with her on Twitter @BinduGarapaty

Dr. Juli Fraga is a perinatal psychologist in San Francisco. She also co-developed and co-faciliates a postpartum depression support group, “The Afterglow” for the UCSF hospital. You can connect with her on Twitter @dr_fraga

photo credit to fotolia