Guest Blog: Postpartum Support International
Wendy N. Davis, PhD, PMH-C, Executive Director
For a woman suffering from perinatal depression, anxiety, or another mood disorder, there’s nothing scarier than feeling alone, abandoned, or without the help she so desperately needs. For them, there’s Postpartum Support International (PSI), the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to helping women and families suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth.
Founded by a new mother in 1987 to increase awareness among public and professional communities about the emotional difficulties that women can experience during and after pregnancy, PSI has grown exponentially over the years. The organization offers support, reliable information, best practice training, and volunteer coordinators in all 50 U.S. states and more than 30 other countries around the world. Working together with its volunteers, caring professionals, researchers, legislators, and others, PSI is committed to eliminating stigma and ensuring that compassionate and quality care is available to all families.
Being a mother comes with a responsibility that can feel crushing at times and women can’t do it alone. For mothers living with mood disorders, the experience is even more challenging. Many mothers who are experiencing symptoms of a mood disorder are unable to access the care they need. Mothers frequently have a fear of reaching out or admitting to their struggles; they often think they’re the only ones suffering from a mental health condition. Moms and their partners should know that they’re not alone and good care is available. PSI can help them find it.
PSI fills the gaps in provider care by offering coordination and peer support, helping moms find the right resources in their own communities.
Our phone-based Helpline (1-800-944-4PPD (4773)), for example, allows women and their families to call in for information, support, and resources. They can text or leave messages (in English or Spanish) anytime, and the calls are returned every day of the week. It’s not a crisis line but a place for moms and dads in need to turn for comfort and support. We also offer a weekly “Chat With an Expert” call, when people can call in and ask anything they choose.
Online, we offer a variety of moderated support groups so parents can come together to share their stories. Our other web-based resources include email forums, private moderated Facebook groups, and links to other resources. We also offer specialized support for partners, dads with postpartum reactions, military families, Spanish-speaking families, adoptive parents, and parents who have experienced pregnancy loss.
Our care isn’t limited by region. Every state has at least one volunteer PSI coordinator, many of whom have had personal experience with perinatal mood disorders. Some are professionals, some aren’t, but all are experts when it comes to the care that’s available in their state. That way, they’re able to offer specific recommendations to moms regarding where to turn for treatment. If you or someone you know is in need of support or assistance, visit postpartum.net and click on “Get Help,” then ““Find Local Resources”. This will lead you to an expert volunteer who’s knowledgeable about all the available resources in your area.
On the provider side, we’ve developed a nationally-recognized, evidence-based training and certification program for practitioners and social support networks. We work with nurses, primary care physicians, social workers, obstetricians, and psychologists, among others. Our trainings typically last two days and offer an in-depth look at perinatal mood disorder treatment. In 2020, all trainings are provided through online webinars. Once armed with this knowledge, providers feel much more comfortable caring for perinatal women. We have issued training certificates to more than 20,000 providers who have completed our 2-day perinatal mood disorders training, an advanced training course, or our web-based training modules, and are now included in our national database, making qualified care easier to access.
To increase access to informed care and treatment, PSI has an online Perinatal Mental Health Provider Directory that lists trained providers and support groups throughout the US and Canada, and a unique Perinatal Psychiatric Consultation line, through which any medical provider can obtain consultation from an expert Perinatal Psychiatrist at no charge.
Ending Shame and Stigma
Like any other health issue, perinatal mental health issues are rooted in biology, and exacerbated by stress and exhaustion. They’re nothing to be ashamed of and no mom or dad has to suffer in silence. In addition, there are excellent care options available; PPD and other mental health issues have proven highly treatable.
Moms and Dads shouldn’t fear. Regardless of their mental health issue, treatment and support are available. Help is out there and parents need to know they are entitled to it. While the medical system has a long way to go, PSI and other groups are here for new and expecting parents in their time of need.