Goal Statement: The goal of this social change portfolio is to address factors that contribute to postpartum depression among African American women and identify ways to increase prevention and treatment methods through assessment and culturally sensitive support.
Significant Findings: African American or Black women experience postpartum depression twice as much as white women. Historically and culturally, Black women are less likely to seek or participate in traditional mental health assessments and treatment. They instead seek counsel from religious leaders and church members. Secondly, Black women take on the burden of living with the symptoms of postpartum depression untreated due to negative stereotypes such as the Strong Black Woman. This stereotype imposes harmful coping mechanisms and increases the chances of developing a more severe mental illness such as Major Depression or significant burnout resulting in financial strain, parenting issues, and a lack of work-life balance. There needs to be both an increase in the assessment of Black women for postpartum depression and treatment that considers historical and cultural factors so that Black women can be supported during the postpartum period in a way that is significant to their unique needs.
Objectives/Strategies/Interventions/Next Steps: African American women are twice as likely to experience postpartum depression than white women. (Sandoiu, 2020) This statistic calls for the need to implement assessment and support measures that are specific to this population. Culturally competent mental health and medical professionals are needed to assess African American mothers for signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression after birth. These measures should also include assessments during all postpartum periods, including those pregnancies that resulted in miscarriage, termination, or adoption. The postpartum period is not inclusive to only live births. The CDC continues to work with local communities by tracking pregnancy and postpartum data through the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). Utilizing the data from this program and specifically focusing on data surrounding African American mothers would help define goals and the need for support; the data will likely increase postpartum depression rates amongst this community. Increasing advertisement of the PRAM program by promoting in local Obgyn offices, Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) offices, and local hospitals will ensure an increase in awareness. Secondly, there should be incentives for participating. This may be accomplished by medical professionals speaking with mothers about the program's benefits, tracking data, and how the program serves them specifically. Third, an increase in collaboration amongst medical and mental health professionals is vital to ensure that African American mothers have the support they need to decrease the likelihood of postpartum depression and have support readily available for those who experience postpartum depression. To increase collaboration, medical professionals can refer at-risk clients to mental health professionals for help. The fourth component for intervention and next steps includes collaborating with doulas and birth workers.
Regarding working within the community, there are community-based organizations that train doulas and other birth workers. Doulas would serve as the first line of defense, alongside medical professionals who see African American mothers regularly. There's a saying in the African American community often stated by elders to "put eyes on you," which means just as it says, to look in on the mother to see how she is doing. It's vital that we "put eyes on" African American mothers, and collaboration efforts with doulas, medical professionals, and mental health professionals are critical to ensure that takes place. Finally, the last way to solicit community support is to involve the churches in the local communities. Religion is such an essential part of African American culture and history. Failing to utilize this source as an opportunity to support African American mothers would be detrimental to the long-term success of any program that is implemented. It takes a collaborative effort amongst government programs such as the PRAMs program, medical and mental health professionals such as doctors, doulas, midwives, therapists, and psychiatrists to ensure the postpartum depression rate amongst African American mothers does not continue to increase. Each professional has a role to play in a collaborative effort that works with and within the communities where they serve to address this alarming issue.