SEPTEMBER IS SUICIDE
PREVENTION AWARENESS MONTH
Robin and her partner were ecstatic to learn they were pregnant: they chatted about names, discussed colors for the baby’s room, and planned maternity photos.

Unfortunately, the joy of pregnancy was overshadowed by a frightening delivery, leaving Robin feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and resentful of her new baby.

Robin dreamed about running away and believed her baby deserved a better mother.

Fortunately, Robin’s obstetrician’s office routinely screened for mental health issues during pregnancy and postpartum, and Robin eventually recovered with help from family and trained mental health professionals.

Stories like Robin’s are not unusual. But not all have happy endings.
FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT MATERNAL SUICIDE
Recent studies show that deaths by self-harm -- suicide and overdose --
are the leading causes of death for women in the first year following pregnancy.
ALL DEATHS BY SELF-HARM ARE PREVENTABLE
SOURCES
Davis, N., Goodman, D., & Smoots, A. (2019). Pregnancy-Related Deaths: Data From 14 U.S. Maternal Mortality Review Committees, 2008-2017. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Goldman-Mellor, S. & Margerison, C. (2019). Maternal Drug-Related Death and Suicide Are Leading Causes of Postpartum Death in California. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.  

Metz, T. D., Rovner, P., Hoffman, C. M., Allshouse, A. A., Beckwith, K. M., & Binswangerm, I. A. (2016). Maternal Deaths From Suicide and Overdose in Colorado, 2004-2012. Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Clearly, screening for postpartum depression at the 6-week postpartum visit is not enough. EVERYONE who interacts with pregnant and recently-pregnant people (including those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth) plays an important role in asking about and assessing for mental health issues.
PROVIDERS who interact with childbearing women -- doctors, nurses, midwives, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, doulas, home visitors, community health workers, emergency department staff -- need to screen routinely for mental health issues.

Women visit a healthcare provider an average 20-25 times during the two-year timeframe from conception to baby's first birthday, offering ample opportunity for providers to educate and screen their patients for anxiety and depression.
Women who are at risk should be educated about interventions (i.e. self-care, social support, talk therapy, and medication) and connected with resources for recovery.

In the last five years, the following national level medical organizations and governing bodies have issued guidelines for their members about screening women for maternal mental health conditions during and after pregnancy:

FAMILY AND FRIENDS can ask a new mother how she is doing. Look her in the eye and really listen, especially if she says things like:
  • I'm such a burden.
  • My baby deserves a better mother.
  • My family would be better off without me.
  • No one would even notice if I was gone.
WHERE TO FIND HELP
Postpartum Support International (PSI) is the world's leading organization providing hope and help to women and families impacted by perinatal mental health issues. PSI provides:
  • support via phone, text, and email (English and Spanish)
  • online support groups
  • information about local resources
  • directory of specially-trained mental health providers
PSI also provides professional educational opportunities for mental health and maternal-child healthcare providers, including:
  • 2-day Certificate Course in Perinatal Mental Health
  • Advanced Trainings in Psychotherapy and Psychopharmacology
  • Trainings for Frontline Providers and Social Support Providers
  • Certification in Perinatal Mental Health
  • Webinars, conferences, and more
UPCOMING EVENTS
Motherhood on the Brink: COVID's
Caregiving Crisis & Maternal Mental Health
Virtual Congressional Briefing
October 14 (2 -- 3:30 pm)
Shades of You, Shades of Me
Multicultural Maternal Mental Health Conference
In-Person and Virtual
October 22 - 24
Working with Policy Makers to Address Maternal Mental Health Challenges
MMHLA -- founded in 2018 -- is a nonpartisan 501(c)3 non-profit organization
dedicated to promoting the mental health of childbearing women in the United States
by advocating for universal education, screening, referral, and treatment
of postpartum depression and related maternal mental health (MMH) conditions.

Our vision is that all childbearing women in the United States will be educated about and screened for maternal mental health conditions and have access to resources for recovery.
A direct and compelling headline