World Maternal Mental Health Day: Nonprofit shares how day aims to help new moms struggling with mental health

A day of worldwide support aims to help new moms struggling with mental health conditions.

Jennifer Davis with her two children, Jordyn, 11, and AJ, 4. (Courtesy Jennifer Davis)

Maryland-based Jennifer Davis remembers the mood swings, loneliness and sadness shortly after leaving the hospital with her daughter 11 years ago.

“It was mostly anxiety and intrusive thoughts,” she said. “Not being able to just function normally after coming home with her. And I didn’t have the words to explain or describe what I was feeling.”

Seven years later, the feelings resurfaced after the birth of her son. She kept her feelings hidden.

“I had support systems, but I didn’t talk to anyone,” Davis, 40, told WTOP. “I was embarrassed, and I didn’t want to stress anyone.”

Years later, she discovered through an online search that she battled postpartum mental health disorders after giving birth to daughter, Jordyn, and son, AJ.

During that search, Davis stumbled upon the Postpartum Support International (PSI) website, a nonprofit group that supports new mothers with services like individual peer mentors, an in-depth physicians’ directory and monthly support groups.

She said the information discovered would have changed how she cared for herself during the tumultuous time of being a new parent.

“We’re trying to work through people not going through that because perinatal mental health disorders are so common,” she said. “There was a whole community of individuals who understood. If I had known that it would have been a game changer for me.”

Davis is now part of PSI as a chapter program director.

The group is teaming up with other national and international maternal support organizations on Wednesday to mark World Maternal Mental Health Day. May is also National Mental Health Month.

The goal is to reach as many women as possible, said Wendy Davis, the executive director of PSI.

(Courtesy Jennifer Davis)

“The reason that we don’t reach out for help with any of the perinatal mental health disorders is that we don’t realize that’s what we’re going through,” said Davis, who is not related to Jennifer Davis. “We just think we’re failing. You’re afraid that people will think badly of you.”

More than 800,000 women experience perinatal mental health disorders, including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis, every year but only about 25% of them receive treatment, according to PSI.

And one in 10 men experience depression or anxiety linked to the perinatal period, Wendy Davis said.

Many times, parents — who are adjusting to the sleep deprivation, exhaustion and common challenges of caring for a newborn — can’t distinguish between feelings that are normal and those that require attention.

(Courtesy Jennifer Davis)

“The high expectation of having a baby is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, compared to the real experience, is hard,” the executive director said. “The outcome of that is to run and hide for so many people.”

In addition to spreading awareness of perinatal mental health disorders, PSI wants to address the social stigma attached to the condition.

The group has a new app and a campaign, called the Blue Dot Project, which aims to quickly connect more women to the help they need.

Jennifer Davis said the group’s overarching message to women during pregnancy and the year after the baby arrives is to show herself some grace.

“I would tell them, ‘You’re doing an amazing job right now. And just know that you can reach out and talk to someone,’” she said. “Just know that you are doing an amazing job.”

Pregnant and postpartum parents can call the PSI Helpline for support and resources at 1-800-944-4773 (English and Spanish), text “help” to 1-800-944-4773 (English), 971-203-7773 (Spanish), or visit

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