Contributed By Margaret Hannah, Executive Director of the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development
Tom Ashbrook of WBUR’s “On Point” recently discussed the struggle with depression that parents often face. I applaud him for bringing this conversation to the nation’s attention, and I hope we continue this discussion about helping parents and families to cope with the mental health issues they face.
New research shows that maternal mental illness is much more common and wide-reaching than people expect. About a fifth of women had an episode of depression in the year after giving birth, according to a meta-analysis of 30 studies.Unfortunately, we tend to only hear about maternal mental illness, such as postpartum depression, in the wake of a tragedy. What is Massachusetts doing to prevent, identify and treat maternal mental illness and postpartum depression in particular?
I am the Executive Director of the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, as well as a member of Governor Patrick’s Commission on Postpartum Depression. The Freedman Center helps connect children and families with appropriate information, providers, resources, and one another, to serve their mental health and wellness needs.
The Freedman Center is working with the University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care Medical School and the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project, as well as MotherWoman, a community organization that supports and empowers mothers, to implement MCPAP for Moms. MCPAP for Moms is funded by the State Department of Mental Health and aims to promote maternal and child health by advocating for, and offering the resources to effectively prevent, identify, and manage depression. At its core it provides capacity-building within the medical and provider community to conduct depression screenings, offers real-time psychiatric telephone consultation for providers serving pregnant and postpartum women, and offers community resources to support pregnant and postpartum women.
Postpartum depression impacts entire families, including mothers and fathers. It is important that we educate and train the public and healthcare providers about postpartum depression and other perinatal emotional concerns. I thank the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health for supporting this endeavor.