By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Next week is Black Maternal Health Week. It is a lead up to International Maternal Mental Health Month, which is observed during the month of May. And if I am honest, as a young mother I don’t know if I ever thought about either. My only child is an adult now. He serves in the United States Army and I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he has become.
As I raised my son, I often fretted if I was doing things right. Feedings, diaper changes, and medical care always worried me. Then there’s early literacy, emotional learning, and creating a supportive environment that would allow my child to thrive. In between work and everything else, there was little time to worry about myself. The overwhelming majority of parents would likely agree that when you have a child, you take a backseat to their needs. That’s what we been told a good parent does.
It took an airline flight, one day, to drive home why that thinking is flawed. Flight attendants always tell you that in the event of an emergency, put on your own mask before helping others around you, even your children. The air at high altitudes is thin and oxygen levels are very low. When cabin pressure drops, it creates a potentially dangerous situation that could cause you to pass out. The lesson: You can’t help anyone else, if you don’t take care of yourself. That idea of self-care must extend to maternal mental health.
According to miraclebabies.org, maternal mental health (MMH) conditions are also referred to as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), postpartum depression, antenatal depression and anxiety, maternal mental health disorders and much more.
The site further notes that MMH conditions encompass depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, psychosis and substance use disorders that start from conception all the way through the first year postpartum. MMH conditions are caused by a combination of changes in biology, psychology and the environment. While incredibly common, these issues are preventable and treatable.
It is with that understanding that we must raise awareness of every mother’s mental health during and after pregnancy. It’s not enough to reference the ‘baby blues’ that many women experience during pregnancy. We need to provide real resources and services.
The Maternal Mental Health Hotline was established last year. This federal program works to reduce postpartum depression rates by providing immediate mental health and crisis support. Those supports include brief interventions from trained counselors who are culturally and trauma-informed, as well as referrals to community-based and telehealth providers.
Callers receive evidence-based information, referrals to support groups and other community resources. This free 24/7 hotline provides mental health support and resources for women before, during, and after pregnancy. If you or anyone you know needs this supportive service, you can text or call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746) in English and Spanish. TTY Users can use a preferred relay service or dial 711 and then 1-833-943-5746.