Reduce stigma and know how to help
Mental health is on the forefront of our minds with the recent heartbreaking loss of the 20-year-old new mother, Brenda Rodriguez Mendoza, in Salinas. As Dana Edgull, Prevention Manager with the Monterey County Behavioral Health Bureau and lead for the Bright Beginnings Maternal Mental Health Task Force, stated in last week’s Monterey County Weekly article:
“What we want to let women and families know is that there is help out there. Unfortunately, it seems there are tragic events happening in our community and folks have a reaction because of the tragedy and there’s even more stigma.”
In Monterey County, nearly one in four women experience depressive symptoms during their pregnancy, postpartum or both. Some women have a higher risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders than the general population, such as Black and Latina women, and women with an income level below poverty (Maternal and Infant Health Assessment Survey, 2013-2015). These disorders are treatable, especially in their early stages.
Due to the stigma, lack of awareness and too few services, our safety nets can fall short, as they did for Brenda. As a community, we must strengthen our supports, address the root causes that create and sustain disparities in the social determinants of health that lead to poor outcomes for people of color and those in poverty, and build a system that is fully trauma-informed.
As a good start, new California legislation now requires screening of all pregnant women at least once during her pregnancy. Within our countywide early childhood development plan, “Together, preparing every child for life and school,” one strategy is to improve support for parents’ and caregivers’ mental health.
Bright Beginnings is committed to fostering ongoing dialog among service providers and decision-makers to create an equitable system that supports all children and families. We also need to leverage resources that already exist for new moms and advocate for more effective, timely, and trauma informed mental health services.
Those seeking mental health support can call Monterey County Behavioral Health at 1-888-258-6029, a line staffed by bilingual (English and Spanish) social workers during the day and by other clinicians after-hours. Callers can book a next-day, walk-in appointment at a clinic in Salinas, King City, Soledad or Marina.
What can you do to be supportive? Join the #AskHer Campaign. Ask a new mom in your life how she is feeling. For more information on postpartum depression, visit the Postpartum Support International website. Be sure to check out our Maternal Mental Health Task Forcewebpage and access additional resources from The Blue Dot Project and 2020Mom websites.