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: http://www.nami.org/Find-Your-Local-NAMI

 

Let's Not Forget About the Dads!

"Bottle Feeding" by patrisyu

"Bottle Feeding" by patrisyu

Many people are familiar with postpartum depression in women but postpartum depression in men is hardly ever talked about.  A new baby is a wonderful blessing but the demands of parenthood are very stressful and can be overwhelming to both parents.  Mothers and fathers share many of the same stresses.

According to one of the few studies in the area of paternal depression, in general, 14% of American men develop depression either during their partner’s pregnancy or during the first year postpartum. About 8% of fathers in other countries develop paternal depression.  The problem seems to heighten when babies are 3 to 6 months old.  During this time, 25% of new fathers and 42% of mothers report depression.  If a mother experiences postpartum depression, the father is at much greater risk of experiencing depression as well.

Sleep deprivation is a strong contributor to depression.  Research shows that any healthy adult that goes without good sleep for a month, is at increased risk for experiencing depression.  In addition, the hormonal changes that occur after childbirth can cause depression in both women and men.  Women experience a sharp decline in progesterone and estrogen but men also experience a decline in testosterone.

Unfortunately, fathers experiencing depression are less likely to seek help then mothers.  Mainly because, in general, men avoid treatment for mental health.  Also men experiencing depression often have symptoms that are unique from women.  Some of the symptoms of depression in men may include:

  • Increased anger and conflict with others
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Violent behavior
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Being easily stressed
  • Impulsiveness and taking risks, like reckless driving and extramarital sex
  • Feeling discouraged
  • Increases in complaints about physical problems
  • Ongoing physical symptoms, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
  • Problems with concentration and motivation
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies and sex
  • Working constantly
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Misuse of prescription medication
  • Increased concerns about productivity and functioning at school or work
  • Fatigue
  • Experiencing conflict between how you think you should be as a man and how you actually are
  • Thoughts of suicide

Some men may only experience a few symptoms and others may experience many.  What ever the case, it is important to know that the symptoms are treatable and help is available.  For more information see the links below.

Sources and Additional Links:

Postpartum Depression Hits as Many Dads as Moms

Prenatal and Postpartum Depression in Fathers and Its Association With Maternal Depression

Helping Men Beat the Baby Blues and Overcome Depression

Postpartum Depression in Men | Video – ABC News

Postpartum Depression in Men: It’s Real

Postpartum Depression Strikes New Fathers, Too

Resources for Fathers

Postpartummen.com

Resources

Information on this web site is for educational purposes only.  It should not substitute for a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed mental health professional.

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 Webtalkradio.net

"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 Webtalkradio.net

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.

 

The Cast is Off!

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The cast on my ankle came off this week.  After 10 weeks of physical limitations and no driving, I am grateful to have it off.  Being in the situation that I was, I have a better understanding of how hard it is when you are physically limited.  I can now empathize better and recognize the importance of getting practical support.  I am very appreciative of my family and friends that were able to assist me.  Now with the cast off, the work on rehabilitating my ankle has just begun. 

One thing my recent experience has revealed to me is that having a visible challenge seems more accepted than having an invisible challenge.  The level of outreach and support I received was much greater for my visible disability than for my invisible disability.  Regardless of this, I have learned to always have an attitude of hope and gratitude.  The more that individuals speak out about life challenges, the better understanding there will be.  So I continue to speak out and share my experiences.  I hope you will too.

My Little Christmas

As I reflect on this holiday season, I appreciate the simple things.  Having a fractured ankle and being on crutches and not being able to drive helps me be reminded of my blessings.  As an advocate for mental health, I had never experienced what it was like to have a visible challenge.  I am finding there is much more compassion when you have a visible disability as opposed to an invisible disability.

So as I celebrate this holiday season, I am having a simple Christmas. It is good to go back to the basics.  My heart goes out to those that are experiencing life challenges and do not have any support.  My new experience is helping me to have a new perspective and motivates me more to continue my advocacy efforts.

No matter what the situation, remember each day is a new day.  May you all have a Merry Little Christmas!

An Attitude of Gratitude

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Having an attitude of gratitude can be very hard at times but over the years I have learned to look at a glass half full instead of glass half empty.  It has been difficult but in the end I am grateful to be living and breathing and trying to make a positive difference in the world. During this time of year, keep in mind the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."

A Time to Fall Back

It is that time of year again when the Fall season begins.  Here in the USA most states turn the clocks back an hour for the end of daylight savings (not sure why we still do it since, sadly, farming is a dying industry here).  But the other thing that warms my heart this season is the changing leaves in the Northern states.  Since I live in a Southern state I don't get to see to many trees that change but growing up in Pennsylvania, we used to rake leaves into piles and have such fun. The most special memory I have about the fall season is that my wonderful son was born 20 years ago during this month.  One of the best things that ever happened to me.

So I have a new event that has happened this fall but this memory won't be so pleasant.  I have a fractured ankle.  The first time ever in my life that I have to use crutches.   Sadly, I am still waiting for an orthopedic referral after more than 10 days since the "fall.". Because I had to request that the emergency room doctor take X-Rays, I am not so confident in the emergency care I received.  I learned once again that when your medical history becomes apparent and you have a brain disorder (or more widely known as a mental illness), your treatment often takes a different path.

Despite my recent experience, I am truly blessed to be alive and well and "kicking" with at least one leg. LOL.  My photo is a reflection of my fall status, a casted ankle and an uncommon fall leaf that I discovered while in a very Southern climate.  Would love to hear from others who have had good/bad experience with emergency care treatment.

Fall Blessings to You All!

Jennifer

My Weekly Therapy Event

Many of you have probably seen the beautiful beach pictures I post on Facebook and Twitter. If you haven't liked my page on Facebook, please do at https://www.facebook.com/jenniferhmoyer.  You can also follow me on Twitter @MoyerJennifer 

I am blessed to live in a beautiful coastal community so every Wednesday, I do my best to walk on the beach.  This is my weekly therapy event.  During the summer, I had limited opportunity to incorporate my "therapy event" but the past several weeks, I tried to make it a priority to walk as I was more stressed due to the graduate class I was taking.  By the way, for those of you that read my last blog: Time Management and Managing Stress, I got an A- for my final grade in the class.  So the hard work was rewarded :)

I have found that taking that weekly walk grounds me and clears my perspective no matter what is going on in my life.  I encourage you to find something similar in your life.  The benefits of exercise for our mental health are tremendous.  Hiking, walking, running, swimming or another physical activity are all great ways to clear your mind and help manage stress.  I am feeling the difference in my life by getting back to my weekly walks on the beach.  No matter what the season, there is something about the beauty of nature that helps me maintain a fresh and grateful perspective.  What do you do to help maintain a healthy perspective and manage stress in your life?

 

Time Management and Managing Stress

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I have been getting to practice time management and stress management techniques the past month.  Not only has it been stressful due to difficult personal family circumstances, such as grief, job loss, and less social interaction with friends, it has been stressful in managing my different roles as wife, mother, friend, advocate and now student.  Some of my friends are aware that I applied for a scholarship to go to graduate school.  Although I didn't receive the scholarship, I did get accepted into a graduate program :)

So I had the dilemma of not being able to afford tuition, etc. yet wanting to see if I could handle taking on graduate school.  As a result, I was advised to take one of the required initial courses to hold my place in the graduate program, in hopes of reapplying for the scholarship in the spring.  The initial class is just a one and a half credit class but it is only 6 weeks in length.  A fact that I failed to know when I registered.  Needless to say, I am learning that time management is even more critical now. 

I have actually been enjoying the course but incorporating it into my schedule has been more challenging.  As my stress level goes up, my cognitive functioning seems to go down.  But that is not stopping me from doing the best I can in both the class and my other responsibilities.  Of course the busier I get, the harder it is to incorporate stress management techniques such as exercise and my weekly walks on the beach.  I am doing my best to practice what I preach.  Thankfully, the weather is cooling off so I am motivated to get outside even if it is just to get sunshine while reading my textbook.

My class ends on October 9th so I have to stay focused on the task at hand.  I guess considering I have not been in college for over 20 years, I need to give myself credit no matter what the end result.  I will check in again after my course is over but for now I need to go practice some stress management skills :)

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 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/maternal-mental-illness-and-the-criminal-justice-system-registration-17945396163

 

A Time to Grieve

This past month has been a difficult one for me.  My eldest sister, Kathleen, recently passed away.  She lost her battle with cancer on August 4th.  She was an amazing woman.  I looked up to her as my big sister. She was a retired reading specialist and businesswoman with a zest for life.  She had great dedication to her family.  

Losing a loved one is never easy.  Everyone has to grieve when a loved one dies but the process is different for each person.  Thankfully, it was only in the last month that she had a tremendous struggle in her battle.  Since she did not live in close proximity to me, I didn't get to spend as much time with her as I would have liked.  Despite the geographical distance, her love and strength were always with me. 

Although I did not arrive in time for her passing, I have reassurance from loved ones, who were with her in the end, that she had a prayerful and peaceful transition.  Because of my faith, the faith of my sister, Kathleen, and the faith of my family, I have a peace that I would not have otherwise.  Although the grieving continues, I will cherish the memories and the love that will forever be with me. 

As difficult as it is, grief is a part of life that we all face at some point.  Regardless of the circumstances, we must accept it.  I am thankful that I am able to have peace in the midst of the tears.

Honored to Have Presented at the 2015 CAPPA Conference

It was an honor and privilege to have presented at the 2015 CAPPA conference that was held July 10th through the 12th in Tucson, Arizona.  The location was beautiful.  When I became certified as a postpartum doula in the early 2000's, it was through CAPPA that I became certified.  It is wonderful to see how much the organization has grown and developed.  Although I no longer practice as a postpartum doula, I still feel very much a part of CAPPA.  I got to see some of the amazing professionals that I knew all those years ago and got to meet even more amazing professionals at the conference.  The atmosphere was warm and inviting.  It felt like a family reunion.

I was humbled by the response I received after my presentation.  It is always encouraging to hear how sharing my story impacts others in a positive and motivating way.  The reason I do what I do is to help increase awareness and prevention in the area of mental health related to childbearing, particularly in the area of postpartum psychosis .  My mission is to bring hope and inspiration to others so I am extremely thankful when I hear from others that my presentation did exactly that for them.  Thank you, CAPPA, for the wonderful experience and I plan to see everyone again in 2016.

The 28th Annual PSI Conference was a Life-Changing Experience

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I recently had the opportunity to attend the 28th Annual Conference for Postpartum Support International.  The conference was held at the beautiful Inn at St. John's in Plymouth, Michigan.  The theme was Planting seeds of hope: overcoming stigma, increasing options and embracing innovative treatments.  The conference accomplished its goal.

One of the pivotal moments for me was participating in the first ever support group for those touched by postpartum psychosis.  I was honored to be able to experience such a special moment.  There are amazing things to come out of the support group so stay tuned.....

I was also honored to be a presenter at this year's conference.  It was wonderful seeing my PSI family, some whom I have known for years and some new to me.  I will never forget the experience and I am grateful to have been a part of it.

Now off to Arizona for the CAPPA conference :)

Facilitating My First Leadership Academy was a Successful Experience

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This past weekend, I co-facilitated a Leadership Academy for the first time.  It was a great experience. The Leadership Academy is an exemplary training program designed for peer, family and parent leaders in mental health recovery.  The Academy is an educational training program for those who are eager to strengthen their leadership, networking and advocacy skills. 

The Academy focuses on creating system and community changes through collective self-determination, which exemplifies empowerment.  I originally attended the Academy myself back in May 2013 and completed the train the trainer program in October 2013. 

Due to funding, the Florida Academies were delayed until recently.  So, FINALLY, this past weekend, my co-facilitator, Laura Gribble, and I conducted the first Leadership Academy in our region.  We had a great group of individuals, who participated in the three-day training.  The participants want to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.  

The Leadership Academy began in Idaho in an effort to increase consumer involvement within the behavioral health system and communities.  The program expanded and in May 2013, the first Florida Leadership Academy was held.  The Florida Leadership Academy is sponsored by CLEAR (Connecting Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Recovery), a statewide program of NAMI of Collier County and the state of Florida's Department of Children and Families, who overseas mental health services in the state of Florida.

Despite being a little "rusty" on the material since it was 2 years ago since I attended the original academy, the weekend training went well.  Laura and I successfully graduated 12 individuals, who are now going to be even more effective in advocacy within their communities.  I am honored to have been a part of the training and I look forward to co-facilitating the next one.

 

Excited to Launch My New Website

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I am excited to announce the launch of my new website.  I am very pleased with the final site.  For those of you that have not reviewed it yet, please do so.  I would love your feedback. 

Here is the link to the site:  http://www.jenniferhmoyer.com/

You can now find information on my book, A Mother's Climb Out of Darkness, directly on the new site.  For those of you interested in having me come speak to your organization or in your community, you can contact me by filling out the contact form on my website.  Also, if you are a mom or family member in need of emotional or informational support, please contact me through my website.

I believe the new site will help me better achieve my mission of bringing hope and inspiration to individuals and families facing mental health challenges.  Look forward to hearing from you.

 

I Learned on My Trip to Malta that the Country Addresses Maternal Mental Health

April 14, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to visit the country of Malta.  Malta is a beautiful Island located South of Italy in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  Before my trip, I learned from Wendy Davis, the Executive Director of Postpartum Support International, that there was a Perinatal Psychiatrist in Malta.  Wendy was able to connect the two of us via email. As a result the doctor and I were able to meet one evening while I was in Malta.

It was wonderful meeting Dr. Ethel Felice as well as her lovely daughter, Elena, who also works in the area of perinatal mental health as a psychology assistant.  According to Dr. Felice, the annual birth rate in Malta is about 4,000 births.  Even though Malta is a small country, it is addressing perinatal mental health including the rare cases of postpartum psychosis. I am encouraged to learn that moms and dads have properly trained professional resources available to them.  They are also planning to start a support group sometime in the future.

Ethel and Elena were both appreciative that I donated a copy of my book, A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness, as a resource for them as well as for moms and families.  It is exciting to have a copy of my book in Malta and I hope it encourages all that read it.  My trip to Malta has been a memorable experience for many reasons.  One of the best memories will be meeting Ethel and Elena.

 

Stigma is Real and Stigma.com is Making a Difference

March 2, 2015

Congratulations to Stigmama.com! The website is celebrating its one year anniversary.  Walker Karraa, PhD began the site because she believes in the power of women, especially those who have been touched by mental illness or mental difference, to create change.

According to Walker, “We are different. We see what others don’t, write what others won’t, and give beauty to the deepest experiences of motherhood and the human soul.”

STIGMAMA was created for mothers of all ages to speak their truths in a non judgmental, supportive, creative community. Walker wants women to share wisdom and support each other in unpacking stigma of mental difference in motherhood.

I commend Dr. Karraa and the awesome contributors for their efforts in stamping out stigma.  Stigma is real and we all can do our part to help eliminate it.

 

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