The first week in May is Maternal Mental Health Week, a time that focuses on a challenge that impacts as many as one out of every four women. Despite that huge number, or maybe because of it, it can be hard to feel like we have the power or ability to do anything about it—especially when we have so many other responsibilities in our lives.
The good news is that there are many, many ways to make a significant difference. Here are five to try:
1. Be gentle with yourself
Activism weeks like this always rev us up to do more in the world—and that's a really good thing. But, it has to start with you. Being good to ourselves is a powerful force for change. If you're feeling like your cup is a little empty, fill it—practice daily self-care, put yourself higher on your priority list, and tend to your health. That will make the world better, promise.
If you are concerned that you are experiencing depression or anxiety (check out this list of symptoms), speak to your therapist right away, or call 911 or go to an emergency room if you feel like hurting yourself or your child.
2. Speak up
It can be hard as a mom of young kids to make it out to rallies and advocacy events. But there are definitely still ways to make your voice heard regarding policy development. 2020mom shares many resources for getting involved on their website. We also love Resistbot—it's an app that allows you to find and contact your representatives (for free) through a text (that turns into a fax).
3. Get a Blue Dot
The Blue Dot Project, part of 2020mom.org, was started by a woman who lived with postpartum anxiety and wanted to help other women realize they aren't alone. The Blue Dot is a symbol, in the form of a magnet! The hope is that women who have experienced postpartum mental illness will display a Blue Dot in an effort to, "Raise awareness of maternal mental health disorders, proliferate the blue dot as the symbol of solidarity and support, and combat stigma and shame."
Want a Blue Dot? Get yours here!
4. Be aware
Social media is awesome for staying connected, but sometimes things get a little lost in translation. Before you post something, think about how someone with a mental illness would feel reading it. For example, posting something like "My kids are driving me crazy!" may be hard to read for someone who is living with a postpartum mental illness.
Additionally, we need to be careful of judgment. The stigma surrounding mental health is still alive and well, and it is not hard to get caught up in feeling like someone, "should just snap out of it," or "should feel lucky to have her beautiful, healthy baby." Remember that this is not a choice for her. She wants desperately not to feel the way she does but she can't. And she needs your support.
5. Talk about it
You are, of course, under no obligation to talk about your own struggles with mental health if you have them—everyone handles these experiences differently, and there is no one right way. But if you are comfortable talking about, do so! You may be surprised how many people around you jump right into the conversation.
If you haven't had a postpartum mood disorder, you can still talk about it. Asking questions, staying informed, and verbally supporting friends and family is hugely meaningful.
We've come a long way with mental health care, but we have a long way to go. I believe with all my heart that we are the generation to really make this change. So let's go.
We've got this.