How a national hotline is improving the mental health of new moms

About 20% of new moms suffer from mental health and mood disorders shortly after giving birth, according to researchers, with some lasting up to one year after a baby is born.

But many new moms run into roadblocks getting the help they need because of a shortage of healthcare professionals trained to spot the warning signs.

Carole Johnson, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, said the federal health agency launched a national hotline for moms last year. Since then, the calls have been pouring in, especially since the hotline workers ramped up a campaign to spread the word.

“We got 12,000 calls in the first year,” Johnson said. “Since about March of this year, our call volume has increased by about 6,000 calls. We know there is a lot of demand and need for this.”

Most women call for conversation and they can call as often as they need, Johnson said. Counselors are there to listen but sometimes they offer referrals to much-needed and hard-to-find treatment programs, including psychotherapy.

What new moms may need the most is better training for doctors whom women frequently visit, including gynecologists and pediatricians. She said these women need to know how to spot the warning signs of mood and anxiety disorders.

Her agency provides some of that training to doctors and midwives across the country.

“It shouldn’t be that women have to reach out for help,” she said. “It should be that the system we wrap around women is there and supportive, so they don’t have to go to great efforts to make it known that they need help.”

The hotline is also designed to crush the stigma associated with asking for mental health help.

“Many women go through these issues,” Johnson said. “We need to make sure that we break down the stigma and barriers that far too many women feel.”

If you or someone you know needs to reach out to the hotline, call 833-TLC-MAMA. You can also contact the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

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