For Black Maternal Health Week, We Want More for Moms with Maternal Depression
This week, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance is celebrating its fourth-ever Black Maternal Health Week. The observance even received a presidential proclamation on Tuesday for the first time ever. And today, in particular, the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) is honoring Black Maternal Health Week by focusing on addressing maternal depression in Black mothers.
Maternal depression is a major focus for us at OhioGuidestone. First and foremost, we are proud that our community-based maternal depression program produces excellent outcomes for our clients. Thanks to our skilled therapists and dedicated treatment teams, we’ve developed and implemented innovative interventions for the mothers in our program. Additionally, our program’s success has driven us to research and learn more about maternal depression. In fact, we will present some of our findings in a flash talk at the 2021 APS Virtual Convention May 26-27.
But we know we have a long way to go. In Cuyahoga County, where we have our headquarters, maternal health outcomes are some of the worst in the nation, and preterm birth rates remain high. This especially is true for Black moms and babies in our communities.
We know and assert that the reason for this unacceptable reality is racism. Especially structural, institutionalized, and systemic racism. And so our goal is not just to treat maternal depression but to empower Black mamas. We want Black mothers to advocate for themselves while we work alongside them to improve our social systems and institutions.
Mothers Need the Best Maternal Depression Treatments Available
At OhioGuidestone’s Institute of Family & Community Impact (IFCI), our job is to give our clinicians cutting-edge tools. But we also need to make sure that they work. Too often, treatments in all aspects of healthcare focus on white patients and clients as the primary recipients. Mental health interventions are no exception, unfortunately.
To best serve mothers, especially Black mothers, we must design maternal depression treatments for and with Black moms. That’s why we ask our clients to self-report their symptoms: their responses guide our research priorities and advocacy, as well as our clinical innovations. This, in turn, helps us give OhioGuidestone’s hard-working, community-centered therapists and mental health specialists the best tools possible.
To achieve health equity, we have to be cognizant of our clients’ differences in culture, lived experiences, socioeconomic status, and so on. Without these vital lenses, we risk perpetuating racial disparities. At OhioGuidestone, our mission this Black Maternal Health Week is for maternal depression treatment to move mothers and families beyond surviving to thriving. How do we do this? We implement evidence-based clinical innovations that center mothers and also focus on maternal vitality.
No one-size-fits-all maternal depression treatment is going to work. And, of course, not all mothers, including Black mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression, will go through the same experiences or report the same symptoms. In other words, we aren’t trying to create one simple treatment for Black moms with maternal depression. Instead, we want to build whole constellations of ways to address maternal depression. And that’s going to take some research.
Our Future Goals
To accomplish this, we need to think about health and families more expansively and inclusively. Maternal health and child health are intimately intertwined, and our work demonstrates this. Our innovative Joyful Together® model, for example, infuses caregiver-child relationships with everyday moments of joy and play. This, in turn, helps reduce parental stress.
Furthermore, over the next year IFCI plans to implement a new, innovative project: A novel maternal depression treatment protocol of 15-20 sessions that includes in-depth conversations with mothers. That way, we can better learn directly from moms themselves about their experiences, needs, and suggestions to drive maternal and family vitality.
Innovations like this, in addition to continuously improving our treatment protocols, are so important. They allow our clinicians to offer the best possible services to our clients. For Black mothers, maternal depression may manifest in a variety of symptoms and from a diversity of life experiences and stressors. But care — from our communities and from health providers, from our families and from each other — can heal us, if we do it intentionally, compassionately, and with respect to the dignity of each individual person and their own personal experiences.
Black mamas matter. Their mental health matters. Their maternal depression matters. And their futures will be bright if we work for and with them on the journey to health and well-being.
Resources for Maternal Health
OhioGuidestone’s Maternal Depression services are offered in the family home to pregnant and postpartum women of all ages who are struggling with depression or anxiety as a result of the recent changes in their lives.
For more information, call 844-6CALLOG (844-622-5564).
Help Me Grow is Ohio’s evidenced-based parent support program. It promotes the comprehensive health and development of children.
For more information, call OhioGuidestone’s Assistant Director of Help Me Grow programming Kimberly Dowdley at 440-260-8962.
Parents as Teachers promotes optimal early development, learning, and health of young children through curriculum for parents and caregivers.
For more information, call OhioGuidestone’s Assistant Director of Parents as Teachers and Fatherhood Programs Eira Yates at 440-260-8897.
Bright Beginnings provides services that promote the health and development of infants and toddlers so that children start school healthy and ready to learn.
Birthing Beautiful provides free neighborhood-based services, including childbirth and parenting education with workshops and classes.
For further information about maternal depression, visit the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services or the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) online.
The Institute of Family & Community Impact is a initiative of OhioGuidestone, one of Ohio’s largest behavioral health agencies. From research to products to clinical innovations, we provide tools for mental health treatment. For questions or more info, email us at IFCI@ohioguidestone.org.