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Recognizing Maternal Mental Health During the Month of May


May often brings us reminders of new beginnings: Warmer weather, the blooming of trees and flowers and the anticipation of summer activities and adventures. When I think of Maternal Mental Health Awareness being highlighted this month, I often consider how analogous this is to the often deep, very painful struggle of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). While you’re in it and fighting, it can be an incredibly dark and lonely time, one that seems like it will never end. But then the light starts staying around a bit longer, the enjoyable moments are more frequent, and the relief is palpable. We’ve made it through the darkest and longest days and can truly begin to enjoy what is in front of us.

While mood and anxiety disorders during the perinatal period are certainly nothing new, focus and attention to these very treatable conditions remain a continuous work in progress. Many organizations work tirelessly to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of perinatal mental illness, as well as educate partners and families. In doing this, the first World Maternal Mental Health Month was enacted in 2014, to occur each year in May. During this month, we strive to normalize the conversation around PMADs, destigmatize these illnesses, honor those lost too soon and bring awareness to charitable organizations on the frontlines of addressing, supporting, and treating maternal mental health needs.

One of the most powerful tools we have in helping others is sharing our stories. Coping with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can be extremely isolating, with sufferers often feeling ashamed to admit they are struggling. My own struggle began within five months of my daughter, Sloane’s, birth and was a long and arduous process. The first picture in this article shows me on one of my absolute hardest days, one where my husband finally convinced me to spend a day on the North Shore as a family. While others may see this as a sweet moment captured on camera, all I can remember from that day are the intense feelings of anxiety and sadness. The second picture is me in complete recovery, focusing on the present and experiencing true happiness. The differences between the two are striking and both will forever be incredibly valuable to me.

You may be wondering how you can get involved in supporting this amazing and incredibly important mission. May 3, 2023, is the official World Maternal Mental Health Day, within the month honoring this cause. Postpartum Support International has many ways you can participate and show your support for those impacted by PMADs. The following is from their website, www.postpartum.net: During the month of May, you can participate in PSI’s campaigns and events to raise awareness for maternal mental health! ● Use the hashtag #maternalMHmatters on social media ● Like the PSI’s Facebook page and share your events, stories, facts, or research

●Adopt the Twibbon on your Facebook or Twitter profile picture – MMHday Twibbon ●Tell your story to help raise awareness of maternal mental health issues so that more women will get treatment and fewer will suffer on our blog ●Come up with your own ideas to highlight #maternalMHmatters in your area and let others know by submitting your event details to us via email ● Use our infographic to highlight that maternal mental health is an issue globally Please also consider visiting the WMMH Day official website, https://wmmhday.postpartum.net/, to learn more about the campaign, ways to get involved, sign the WMMH Day petition, and find links to various resources. If you or someone you know is struggling, please know help is available and there is absolutely no shame in reaching out. We are incredibly fortunate to have a number of outpatient resources and support groups dedicated to MMH in the Pittsburgh area. The following communities are free, virtual, and inclusive spaces for finding support and connecting with others who truly understand: https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/psi-online-support-meetings/ https://www.smartpatients.com/communities/postpartum Call 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD) #1 En Español or #2 English Text in English: 800-944-4773 Text en Español: 971-203-7773 ● The PSI HelpLine is a toll-free telephone number anyone can call to get basic information, support, and resources MaternalMental Health Hotline:1-833-9-HELP4MOMS


By: Maura L. Johnson, LCSW, PMH-C



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