Guest editorial: Awareness about maternal mental health issues is critical | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Awareness about maternal mental health issues is critical

Sarah Caldwell
The Healing Group

In March of this year, Governor Herbert signed a declaration identifying maternal depression and anxiety as a "serious statewide public health issue." This month is also Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Across the state, groups like the Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative, The Emily Effect, The Healing Group and others are joining forces to raise awareness of maternal anxiety and depression, and to inform women and their families that help is out there and they are not alone.

As a therapist specializing in helping new and expecting moms heal from anxiety and depression, I see how awareness leads to my clients feeling better faster. When a new mom knows the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety, she's more likely to come in for help sooner and often feels less shame and stigma about her experience. Breaking down these barriers is a huge first step in connecting more women with the support they need and deserve.

I'm a huge believer in the idea that knowledge is power. If a mom knows that at least 1 in 7 pregnant and postpartum women will experience depression or anxiety, she's less likely to feel isolated and that she needs to hide what she's feeling. If families and providers know what resources are out there to support moms through their healing process, more women will recover. If we all know that it's not just moms, that dads, partners and adoptive parents also experience anxiety and depression after having a baby, these parents will know they are not alone.

Depression and anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum doesn't look like general depression and anxiety, and often feels very different from what's depicted in the media. It's common for women to feel angry and irritable, to experience a sense of disconnection from her baby, partner and loved ones, to re-live painful memories of her birth experience, to have scary thoughts that seem to come from nowhere, and to fear it might never get better.

To any mom or parent reading this, I want to pass along the Postpartum Support International motto to you: you are not alone, you are not to blame, and with help you will be well. There are support groups, online forums, and trained therapists that are here for you and who want to help you feel like yourself again.

There is help right here in Summit County. I want to invite anyone with questions to get in touch with me at sarah@thehealinggroup.com.

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If you're a mom or mom-to-be who'd like to connect with other moms, you're welcome to join the New Mom Walking Group, which meets weekly on Wednesdays for connection, fresh air, support and sunshine.

Thanks to the efforts of survivors, their loved ones, medical providers, researchers, clergy, and mental health professionals, there is more information available about maternal depression and anxiety than ever before. Visit postpartum.net, psiutah.org, theemilyeffect.org, and

thehealinggroup.com for more information about signs and symptoms, how to complete a screening, how to support a loved one who is experiencing depression or anxiety, and where to find help and support.

As a community, let's start asking moms how they're doing, offer our support and encouragement, and raise our own awareness about these issues. No mom should have to face depression or anxiety alone. Let's show the moms in our lives that we are here, we understand, and we are with them on their journey to feeling like themselves again.