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May, Mental Health Awareness Month
During May, the U.S. brings into light Mental Health Awareness, an observation that started in 1949. During this month, advocates around the nation shed light on raising awareness about the importance of mental health in the lives of all Americans.
During the summer of 2022, Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and CNN surveyed around 2,000 adults at random. The poll results were that an overwhelming majority, 90% believe that there is a mental health crisis in our country. But what about statistics on mental health for Women and Moms?
Mental Health on Moms
It is no secret that mothers mental health challenges predated the pandemic. In January 2023, the Urban Institute published a research report on this topic. In 2019, they found that 13.5% of mothers, equivalent to 4.9 million moms, reported anxiety symptoms and, 1.7 million reported symptoms of depression, 1.2 experienced both depression and anxiety.
During and after the pandemic, challenges rose. Many moms faced isolation, took on more caregiving responsibilities, and lost or left their jobs.
Also, 50 percent of women reported seeking mental health services in the past two years, compared to 35% of men.
1 in 7 women may experience PPD (Postpartum Depression) the year after giving birth. Further, non-birthing parents who expanded their families via adoption or surrogacy can also face the post–baby blues. And unlike new birthing mamas, non-birthing parents cannot explain their symptoms with decreased estrogen levels. Most intended parents suffer secretly because of the shame and guilt of not being entirely happy over something they had chosen and, in many cases, worked so hard to get.
The reality is that, with a change in hormone levels or not, when a significant life change happens, especially to an already established life routine that alters the pre-existing dynamics, your brain automatically sees it as unfavorable. This perception can increase anxiety and depression and affect your decision-making process.
What is Anxiety?
When I asked women in my social circle if they had experienced anxiety or depression, the vast majority responded they experienced anxiety. So, can you tell if you may be suffering from anxiety? I advise seeking professional help from a licensed specialist when questioning any emotional and behavioral questions, even if it is just for an initial consult. However, people with anxiety disorders have feelings of worry and fear that are constant and overwhelming, which can be crippling.
What is depression?
Sadness is a feeling that is normal and healthy. However, sometimes that feeling comes out of nowhere. Something by chance triggers that emotion. Some feelings and thoughts won’t go away, and many people have trouble concentrating, lose interest or pleasure in activities they usually enjoy, and have feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Some symptoms can include little appetite or overeating and difficulty sleeping. Women are double as likely to develop clinical depression than men. More to it, studies on depression in women are underfunded and under-researched, which it’s not okay and needs to change.
Find your “Village”
Even though mental health awareness has come pretty far as what it used to be 30 years or so, there is still room for improvement. There are still a lot of stigmas when it comes to scary topics such as postpartum rage and suicidal ideation, as my friend Heather pointed out. Because of these stigmas, many people don’t seek therapy or help. But know that you are not alone if you are experiencing symptoms or strong emotions. And seeking help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.
Seeking help is more common nowadays, and discussing and unloading your thoughts and feelings with someone trained is healthy. Relying on friends and family is excellent support, but sometimes having an impartial person outside your ”village” to unload could improve relationships and save friendships.
You will be certain that the guide you will receive from a professional will not be biased. And if you disagree with the advice, it is easier to fire a therapist than a friend or family member, and you can try and find a new one.
However, seeking professional mental healthcare is not equally accessible for everyone, and without a great healthcare provider, it can be very costly. The financial burden is another reason why a lot of people shy away from seeking therapy and help.
My friend Lisa told me that when she couldn’t afford to pay for traditional therapy care, she found a local office that offered therapy services with psychology Ph.D. candidates and interns at much more affordable prices. She found them helpful and the sessions were always reviewed afterward by the intern’s mentors. This could be a potential option for some to explore within their local communities.
“Fill your cup” for free or at little cost
Do something you can have full control of and that makes you feel good. Getting through difficult times may require a little work. Many of my friends I surveyed agreed that getting outdoors is an excellent way to improve mental health. Get outdoors, get outside, and change scenery. It is free!
Pour time into yourself, and go grab a coffee or a glass of wine with a friend or by yourself. Spend five extra minutes unloading in your car, in your driveway, scrolling through social media, or doing what “fills your cup” and re-energizes you. Often, finding out what revitalizes you requires a lot of work to figure out.
Match your awareness to your tech.
What about boosting your mental health with apps and technology?
Many employers are trying to improve their employees’ mental health wellness and sponsoring some premium wellness apps. Be sure to check your employer’s or your partner’s employer’s benefits to see if you can score one of these premium benefits for free.
- For Positive Affirmations: I am – Positive Affirmations
- For Mindfulness: Headspace
- For Improving Sleep: Calm
- For Guided Sleep Meditation: Get Sleepy on Spotify
- For Positive Thinking: Happify
- For Breathing Techniques: Breathwrk
- For Kids: Chill Panda
- For Women: Ana Health
There are also many support groups you can join virtually, lurk your social media hashtags such as #youarenotalone, #mentalhealth, or even specific words of what you are struggling with such as #motherhood, #infertility, #findingajob, #marriageistough, and so on.
And remember, mental health is not a topic to be only covered during May. It is an important topic that should always be brought up. Change the stigma, flip the script. Things can get better, and remember; you are not alone.