Thursday, April 26, 2018
Health

Seventh Mom brings light to the darker side of maternal mental health

Elizabeth Good remembers waiting for the depression to subside.

Pregnant with her second child, she struggled to get motivated. She felt numb.

She thought things might improve after her daughter's natural birth. Only the sadness lingered. Anxiety plagued her day and night. A disconnect formed with her newborn baby.

Good considered seeking treatment but, despite working in a doula's office, didn't know where to turn. She realized even doulas, who offer women support through pregnancy, birth and postpartum time periods, sometimes lack mental health resources.

After months of suffering without answers, she found the right doctor, which allowed healing through medication and therapy. Still, she knew, not all women find the help they need.

"I saw there was a real lack of resources in the Tampa Bay area for moms seeking help for postpartum/perinatal mood disorders," said Good, 30. "I wanted to do something about it."

In September, Good and friend Rebecca Hartley-Woods founded the Seventh Mom Project, a nonprofit organization serving Hills­borough and Pinellas counties. The organization provides access to mental health care providers, educates people about postpartum mood crisis and offers peer support to moms in need.

On Tuesday, the organization will screen the documentary Dark Side of the Full Moon, an examination of maternal mental health care in America. The free showing will be at 6 p.m. at Tampa General Hospital, with a panel discussion to follow. Good encourages physicians, nurses, midwives and others who work in related care fields to attend.

"The film highlights the missing piece, the gap between maternal health and mental health providers," Good said.

Maureen Faura, the writer/director of Dark Side, suffered with depression for six months during pregnancy.

Producer Jennifer Silliman hid her symptoms from her family before breaking down to her husband in the family bathroom. She now wonders why the hospital where she delivered did not screen her for postpartum depression.

"I think this disconnect is apparent overall in our culture, not just in maternal care," Silliman said. "How often are our physical wellness doctors recommending therapy or yearly mental health well visits? They're not."

Hartley-Woods, 32, of Valrico experienced mood disturbances with all four of her pregnancies. Dark Side of the Full Moon opened her eyes to the common issue.

"The first time I saw it, I sat there in my mind saying this is me," Hartley-Woods said. "It offers a sense of, 'You're not alone.' "

Not all women realize that they can seek medical help or that what they experience is more than just the baby blues, Good said. Some try to find help, but when it becomes difficult, they get discouraged.

"Women who are used to juggling a lot tend to just try and push through," she said.

Seventh Mom is currently working on an online database for mothers and providers, something that is easily searchable.

"We want to connect moms to care without them needing to jump through hoops," Hartley-Woods said.

Seventh Mom also offers monthly peer support meetings at Sweet Child of Mine Birth Center in Brandon and Growing Up boutique in St. Petersburg. On May 21, the organization will present training for care providers at Guiding Star Center in Lutz.

And because of Seventh Mom's efforts, Hillsborough County commissioners will declare the first week of May Perinatal Mental Health Awareness Week, with a proclamation Monday.

"There are many ways people can make a difference," Silliman said. "I think getting involved with local or national nonprofits to raise awareness and funding is a great place to start. We want the stigma to be removed, and the more we talk about the issues, the better chance we have of doing just that."

Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]

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