A new program in Jacksonville aims to help the increasing number of new and expecting mothers with mental health challenges.
The Motherhood Space Day Program, operated by Baptist Health, takes place at the Winston Family YMCA in the Brooklyn community. It helps mothers get the support needed to deal with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, also known as postpartum depression.
One in 5 mothers has postpartum depression, and the numbers jump to 1 in 3 for women of color, according to the American Hospital Association. Even fathers are affected: 1 in 10 dads can experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
Terrie Andrews, vice president of behavioral health at Baptist Health, says the hospital’s surveys have identified maternal and child health as one of the top needs in the community.
“What we found is there’s really not a lot of maternal mental health support going on in our area. So that really highlights the need for us to provide this valuable resource to the community,” Andrews said.
For Andrews, the issue of maternal mental health challenges is personal. After her second child, she had postpartum depression, and a program like this would have helped her tremendously, she said.
“It’s so important for a mom to be connected with the infant, to be able to constantly have that ‘serve and return’ where if the child is needing something I’m responding in the moment,” Andrews said. “If I’m having postpartum blues, or maybe, you know, I’m very fatigued and can’t get out of bed, I’m missing some of those opportunities. So something like this program, the maternal mental health intensive outpatient program, is just a game changer.”
The new program is available for any mother who is dealing with mental health challenges while pregnant or up to 18 months after childbirth.
Dr. Jill Garrett, the program’s director, says mothers in the program will meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for three hours a day.
“We have no-cost child care. We have opportunities for transportation through JTA,” Garrett said. “It has a wellness kind of impact to the programming, so we’ll have Yoga 4 Change here, doing yoga with moms, walking therapy, and we have opportunities for relaxation with the massage chair. Lots of good support for moms.”
Inside the area where mothers will meet is a common area for conversations with one another, a relaxing area with calming sounds, and a lactating room.
Garrett said most insurance policies will cover the program.
Symptoms of postpartum depression range from sadness and loss of energy to cognitive impairment and suicidal thoughts. If left untreated, postpartum depression can affect a mother’s health and might cause sleeping, eating and behavioral problems for the child, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Garrett said taking care of yourself as a mother is not a luxury, but a requirement.
“It’s not uncommon for moms or anybody to have feelings of guilt or shame when they’re having emotional challenges,” she said. “What I encourage people to do is recognize that if they’re not feeling like themselves, to recognize their insight there as a strength and recognize that the more you do for yourself, the more you can do for your baby, your children, your family, and so reach out and we can help you.”
If you are interested in joining the Motherhood Space program, call 904-376–3800. You can also get resources through the Motherhood Space on YouTube.
If you are having a suicidal crisis, call or text 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.