National hotline addressing maternal mental health marks 2 year anniversary

Two years ago, this Mother’s Day weekend, the federal government’s Health Resources and Services Administration launched a national hotline for new moms needing to talk about the pressures of parenthood.

So far, more than 33,000 women have called or texted the National Maternal Mental Health hotline for resources, physician referrals or to talk with a friendly voice on the other end, said Carole Johnson, the agency’s administrator.

“Being a new parent is hard and there’s a lot of things that come along with it,” she told WTOP. “It’s really important for moms to give voice to what they’re experiencing. It’s important for those feelings to be validated.”

Mental health conditions are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths nationwide, according to HRSA. And roughly one in eight women who have recently given birth report maternal mental health symptoms, which include depression and anxiety.

Johnson said that number could be higher, especially among Black and Hispanic women, because some new moms keep their struggles hidden.

“That’s just the people who are willing to talk about it,” she said. “Our hope is to make sure that this number is well-known by everyone so that it’s a go-to resource for women.”

She said one of the hotline’s primary goals is removing the stigma linked to symptoms.

“Unfortunately, there’s far too much stigma in this space,” Johnson said. “What we want to say is regardless of circumstance, there is help here.”

The agency is working to expand the hotline with more funds from Congress — and more partnerships with more hospitals and nonprofit organizations are designed to spread the word.
The 24/7 hotline is staffed by qualified counselors and volunteers who speak to new moms in 60 different languages.

“We are all about making sure people have access to health care,” Johnson told WTOP. “So, when you pick up the line, we want to be able to speak to you in a language most common to you and get you the help you need.”

If you or someone you know needs help with maternal mental health disorders, the National Maternal Mental Health hotline is 833-TLC-MAMA.

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Gigi Barnett

Gigi Barnett is an anchor at WTOP. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years. Before joining WTOP, she was an anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, and a staff reporter at The Miami Herald. She’s a Navy wife and mom of three.

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