The U.S. is one step closer to passing significant legislation designed to improve maternal mental health. On June 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act, which includes the TRIUMPH for New Moms Act. The bill now moves on to the Senate.
The TRIUMPH Act would establish a task force on maternal mental health within the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to developing a national strategy for maternal mental health and collaborating with state and local agencies, the task force would report on best practices and programs to prevent, screen for, diagnose, treat and reduce disparities in maternal mental health conditions.
The larger Restoring Hope Act also makes new provisions and allocates more funding for the national Maternal Mental Health Hotline, which was established in May this year. Launched through the Department of Health and Human Services, mothers can call or text 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS and connect with a counselor for free.
"To address the urgent issue of the maternal mental health crisis, collaboration across federal agencies, state and local governments, non-profits, and medical experts is essential," says Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (D-CA-44), who sponsored the legislation. "This critical and necessary bill will create a national strategy to address maternal mental health and substance use disorders impacting new mothers, and integrate maternal mental health into existing maternal, infant, and mental health activities on the federal level."
Postpartum depression (PPD) has a significant impact on women and families, and is estimated to impact 1 in 8 postpartum women. A World Health Organization (WHO) study found that moms with postpartum depression were twice as likely to suffer from depression four years later and were significantly more likely to experience chronic diseases, highlighting a critical need for more resources and support. But perinatal mood disorders can encompass more than PPD—postpartum anxiety and postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder are also on the rise.
According to CNN, studies have also shown links between mental health of moms and the health of their children. In mothers with high levels of stress or depression, children may experience a higher risk of infections or impacts on their own mental health.
“Becoming a parent is both exciting and challenging," says Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN-08), a co-sponsor of the bill. "Too often, pregnant and new mothers feel alone on that journey. Today’s passage of my TRIUMPH for New Moms Act in the House is an important step toward providing mental health and other resources often needed at the beginning of motherhood."
The legislation has been praised by 2020 Mom, a non-profit focused on preventing the suffering of mothers, babies and families associated with untreated maternal mental health disorders, like postpartum depression.
“Women facing maternal mental health issues have fallen through the cracks for too long,” says Joy Burkhard, Executive Director of 2020 Mom. “Today's passage of the TRIUMPH for New Moms Act in the House is a crucial step forward for our movement.”
The organization is calling for Senate to quickly pass the TRIUMPH Act and the larger Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act, of which it is a part.
"When mothers are healthier, our society is healthier,” says Burkhard.