Depression, anxiety, and psychosis in mothers who have recently given birth can be debilitating and sometimes fatal, and that’s why Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has signed a resolution declaring February as Maternal Mental Health Month.
YWCA Public Policy Analyst Gabriel Archuletta co-hosted the press conference announcing the move along with Voices for Utah Children. They collaborated with the Maternal Mental Health Policy Committee.
Archuletta said that data indicates 44% of women are screened for mental health before, during, and after pregnancy. They want to increase that number by building awareness of postpartum mental health conditions.
"The purpose of this press conference is to discuss significant statewide maternal mental health efforts, raise awareness, and promote de-stigmatization,” he said. “Recently released data from the Utah Department of Health shows that 43% of Utah residents with a recent live birth in Utah were affected by depression or anxiety. Overall, women of color tend to experience higher rates of postpartum depression. They are less likely to receive treatment due to a number of barriers including systemic racism and language barriers."
Utah First Lady Abby Cox talked about her experiences with post-partum depression.
"I'm here to represent mothers everywhere who have struggled with postpartum anxiety or depression or other mental health or maternal mental health issues,” Cox said. “When I had my first two babies and didn't struggle at all with mental health issues and didn't prior to that. But with the third baby, it was something that hit me hard, and frankly I didn't know what it was. I didn't have the language for it. We had heard a little bit about postpartum depression, and it didn't feel like that to me. And we heard of things more severe than what I was experiencing. And, I had no idea what it was."
Heather Dot is a mother of two and survived para-natal anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. She is co-chair of the Utah Mental Health Policy Committee. She has worked to increase awareness and develop resources by advocating on the state and federal platforms. In 2018, former Gov. Gary Herbert signed Senate Concurrent Resolution 11, a resolution that opened the door to raising awareness for maternal mental health and improving postpartum screenings.
"An event in Washington D.C. every year sponsored by the nonprofit organization 2020 Mom. Through Mom Congress, I collaborate with mothers, providers, and advocates across the country,” Dot said. “And I can confidently say that Utah is a leader in the fight to support struggling mothers and families across the United States. Our online provider database Maternal Mental HealthUtah.org was the first of its kind, and its accompanying social media accounts have reached tens of thousands of women in Utah and across the country."
Links to maternal mental health resources can be found below.
Maternal Mental Health Utah
2020 Mom through Mom Congress
PSI Utah – Post-partum Support International