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Bringing Change to Massachusetts: New Models to Address the Perinatal Mental Health Crisis

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By Liz Friedman

Miriam Carey's death is evidence of a crisis in this country. This is yet another heartbreaking example of the desperate need for a significant change in our mental health system. We must create comprehensive safety nets that help ALL mothers when they are facing perinatal emotional complications. There are so many mothers out there who are in desperate need and who remain at risk for falling through the cracks without a system in place that is able to catch them.

Perinatal emotional complications can be devastating to a mother who may be unable to fully function and bond with her newborn. There are a number of serious implications for children who are born to mothers with untreated depression or anxiety such as being more likely to experience social, emotional, and cognitive delays, have the potential of facing unintended neglect and can have lifelong increases in medical care utilization and expenses due to these developmental and emotional challenges. Additionally, the 1 in 1000 mothers who experience postpartum psychosis are in crisis and need to be identified and cared for immediately.

MotherWoman has two powerful evidence-informed models that implement necessary changes at the community and system levels, the MotherWoman Support Group Model and the Community-based Perinatal Support Model (CPSM). MotherWoman is partnering with the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP) and the MA Postpartum Depression Commission to bring these models to mothers across the state of MA and with other partners nationally to bring these models to their home communities.

MotherWoman Support Groups provide mothers with effective, culturally competent, easily accessible emotional support during the critical perinatal period. Liz Reinke, R.N. of Tewksbury, who was in postpartum crisis after her husband was unexpectedly sent to Afghanistan for military duty during her 6th month of pregnancy, attended MotherWoman support groups and said, "I cannot put into words how thankful I am for MotherWoman and its unique support group... Having the opportunity to sit with other mothers who were going through some of the same trials and tribulations that I was experiencing saved my life."

MotherWoman's Community-based Perinatal Support Model (CPSM) develops regional coalitions that support communities in identifying gaps in service and education, expanding resources and capacity, and ensuring that women with perinatal mood disorders have greater access to and engagement in treatment. The members of these groups work together to resolve gaps in services to mothers and children. This work is essential in ensuring that all resources are readily accessible and accurate for mothers in need.

Through collaboration and cooperation we can develop comprehensive safety nets for all mothers. It is through these and similar initiatives that we can improve the lives of mothers and their children in every community.

Co-posted on: http://blog.masskidscount.org/

2013-11-05-liz_friedman.png Author's Bio: Liz Friedman, MotherWoman's Program Director, became a mother in 2002 and experienced a severe postpartum emotional crisis. Liz founded the Postpartum Support Initiative of MotherWoman in 2004, and with Annette Cycon, transformed the MotherWoman Support Group Model into a powerful tool for mothers with postpartum emotional complications. Annette and Liz developed the MotherWoman Facilitator Training to train professionals and layleaders in how to run successful MotherWoman groups. Liz says: "I want for my daughter what I want for ALL of us. That she will be heard when she speaks her own truths as a woman and, if she chooses, as a mother. MotherWoman is the place where we do this with each other and for each other. MotherWoman is the home where ALL mothers can speak our truths and make the changes we know are essential for ourselves, our children and our world."

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