maternal mental health

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Event Held in Mary Esther, Florida

The Perinatal Mental Health Task Force of the Emerald Coast hosted a screening of the movie documentary, Dark Side of the Full Moon, at the UA Santa Rosa Theater in Mary Esther, Florida, on Tuesday, May 31st at 6:30 pm. 

Audience watching the movie

Audience watching the movie

The feature-length documentary depicted the stories of several moms, who experienced maternal mental health complications.  Maternal mental illness is one of the most common complications of childbirth affecting more than 1.3 million mothers each year in the United States.  The film addressed the failures of the mental health system, the lack of maternal mental health training of providers as well the fact that screening of moms for depression and anxiety is not the norm.

A viewer of the film, Marcia Baris-Sanders, said “the film was eye-opening, informative and inspiring.” The film discusses the demands placed on mothers today and the lack of support available and David, another viewer of the film, said “It’s sad realizing that our society treats motherhood as a hobby.”  Jodi, a local mom, who personally experienced mental health complications after her second child, says “The film was excellent, a true must see if you are a mother, thinking of becoming a mother, or have had a mother.”

Panel Members

Panel Members

After the movie, there was a thought-provoking Q&A discussion with a distinguished panel.  Panel members included Dr. Lynn Keefe, a pediatrician from Niceville, Susan Michaels, a Healthy Start Nurse from Santa Rosa County, Don Harrison, a licensed Mental Health Counselor and current President of NAMI Emerald Coast (the local chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness), Carolyn Ketchel, a social worker and Okaloosa County Commissioner, and Jennifer Moyer, a mental health advocate and author of the book, A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness: A Story About Overcoming Postpartum PsychosisThe issues discussed included the need for additional mental health services in the community as well as the importance of moms receiving empathetic and understanding help and support when faced with a mental health complication related to childbearing.

The event was also a fundraiser for the Emerald Coast chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  According to Don Harrison, President of NAMI Emerald Coast, “NAMI, as the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, is dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.  Bringing awareness about mental health issues such as Perinatal Mental Health helps reduce stigma, and promotes the development of services in areas that may be lacking in our community.  In addition to events like this, NAMI offers support groups and classes for persons affected by mental health issues including their families.  You can find out more by contacting NAMI.   Here is link to find your local NAMI:


From Crisis to Contribution

It is hard to believe that it is over 20 years since my perinatal mental health crisis began.  My life forever changed back in early 1996 when I was struck with postpartum psychosis.  Not only did my life change but so did the lives of my family members.  My experience has brought an understanding of mental health related to childbearing that I would not have otherwise.  I am truly blessed to have been able to turn such a horrific experience into a way to give back and contribute to making changes in a positive way.

Back in November 2015, I had the opportunity to speak before house and senate committees in the state in which I reside.  My goal was to get the attention of lawmakers so they would recognize the importance of addressing perinatal mental health.  It was a new experience for me but I knew it was time to share a piece of my story with the legislators.  I believe it opened the door for the discussion and enabled some of my fellow perinatal mental health advocates to make strides as well.  A proclamation was submitted back in March to our Governor to make May Perinatal Mental Health Awareness month.  Although still waiting a decision, our state's perinatal mental health advocates are hopeful that it will be signed by the Governor. 

Regardless of the outcome, the perinatal mental health advocates in my state will continue efforts to increase awareness and change outcomes in the area of mental health related to childbearing.  I am honored to be a part of the movement.

We Can't Forget About Postpartum Psychosis When Talking About PPD

"Pregnant Woman" By duron123

"Pregnant Woman" By duron123

There has been much attention given to postpartum depression recently since the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force is now recommending screening of all pregnant women for postpartum depression both prenatally and postpartum.  This is great news and a great stride in bringing much needed attention to an under-addressed public health crisis.  That being said, when the general term of postpartum depression (PPD) is used, it can be misleading and the spectrum of perinatal mood & anxiety disorders can be overlooked.

Although postpartum psychosis may be considered a rare perinatal mood & anxiety disorder, it affects many women and families worldwide.  More awareness, education and research are needed in the area of postpartum psychosis as well as properly identifying and diagnosis the illness.  As things move forward in addressing the public health crisis of perinatal mental health, it is important that postpartum psychosis not be forgotten. 

Of course, many of you know that my efforts are to increase the awareness and understanding of postpartum psychosis.  I know many others are striving to do the same.  Some of us are already joining each other in our efforts.  If any others are interested in getting more involved in addressing postpartum psychosis, particularly in the United States, please let me know. 

I know the year 2016 is going to be a good year in moving forward in addressing perinatal mental health.




Guest Appearance on Motherhood on

"On the Air" by digitalart

"On the Air" by digitalart

I am honored to have had a guest appearance on the Motherhood program hosted by Dr. Christina Hibbert on

Here is the link to the program:  Motherhood – Mom Mental Health Crisis! How to Cope, Heal, & (Eventually) Use it for Good

Hope you take the time to listen to the program.  Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well.


Maternal Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System

        "The Law Book With Gravel" by cooldesign

        "The Law Book With Gravel" by cooldesign

Postpartum Support International will be presenting a program titled Maternal Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System on October 23, 2015 in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey. 

While many other countries have laws in place recognizing the existence of perinatal mood & anxiety disorders and their relevance in rare cases of a mother harming her child(ren), the US legal system does not yet have an understanding of these illnesses.  This program is a step towards bringing better understanding. 

I encourage attendance of this very important educational seminar for anyone involved in the legal system or anyone interested in learning more about maternal mental illness and the criminal justice system.   I have included more information and the link for registration below.

Maternal Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System
October 23, 2015

41 Ridgedale Avenue, Cedar Knolls NJ 07927   
Presented by Postpartum Support International

Thurs Oct 22, 7:00pm -- Dinner and Remarks by George Parnham, JD

Fri Oct 23, 8:30-5:00 -- Maternal Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System

Postpartum Support International presents “Maternal Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System” in Cedar Knolls New Jersey on Friday October 23.

Attorney George Parnham,  Psychiatrist Margaret Spinelli, MD, and an expert team of faculty present this premier seminar designed for professionals interested in the defense and treatment of women accused of crimes that occurred during a postpartum psychiatric mental illness.

Please join us Thursday night to enjoy remarks by George Parnham, JD and a spectacular dinner by H2Ocean Restaurant, hosted by owners Michael & Sylvia Frodella.

Link to registration