Hotline Provides Mental Health Resources to New Mothers:
October 10, 2022. By Ashley Agnew:
With mental health and the importance of self-care often overlooked, busy families can find it hard to make time to physically go to the resources that will best help them through difficult times. For new parents, there is now a wonderful free resource families can use 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the comfort of their home or when they need it most. This resource is the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline, 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those who contact the hotline can receive a range of support, including brief interventions from trained counselors who are culturally and trauma-informed, as well as referrals to both community-based and telehealth providers as needed. Callers also will receive evidence-based information and referrals to support groups and other community resources.
To learn more about the services offered by the hotline, we recently connected with one of the first hotline workers and an expert in the space of perinatal health, Cleide Art, LMHC. During our time together, we were able to take a closer look into the importance of the hotline, and her journey into the field in this practitioner profile:
Q: Define what you do professionally.
A: I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Massachusetts with a certification in Perinatal Mental Health through an organization called Postpartum Support International. I currently work as a counselor on the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline which officially launched Mother’s Day 2022.
Q: What led you to your professional calling?
A: I had been practicing as a mental health counselor in for several years before having my first child in 2015. After giving birth, I began struggling with postpartum anxiety. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my second child was born in 2017 that I realized that my anxiety was related to having given birth. Once I was able to identify that this was the origin of my anxiety, I sought help from my doctor and began to feel like myself again. I was surprised that for someone who works as a mental health professional, I was so uninformed about perinatal mental health struggles. It was at that time that I found Postpartum Support International (PSI) and began the process of becoming certified in perinatal mental health. In 2021, I became aware that PSI and HRSA would be launching the NMMHH and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Q: What activities fill the day of a typical hotline worker? What types of calls are typically received?
A: A typical day on the hotline consists of answering phone calls and text messages from pregnant and birthing people who are struggling with their mental health. These help seekers often are looking to be heard, understood, and validated. We often provide psycho-education about perinatal mental health. Many of our help seekers are open to connecting with a mental health professional in their area for ongoing mental health treatment or support, and we are able to utilize PSI’s extensive provider directory to find professionals in their area who have specialized training in perinatal mental health. We also take calls from the loved ones of pregnant and postpartum individuals who may be concerned for their loved ones. There are times when we receive calls that are out of our scope; in these cases, we do our very best to connect those help seekers with the appropriate supports such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, National DV Hotline, Disaster Distress Hotline, etc.
Q: What benefits can the hotline provide to those who are supporting new and expecting mothers?
A: The hotline can provide a place for pregnant and postpartum individuals and their families to connect with professionals to talk about their struggles and concerns. The hotline creates a place where people can go to talk to professionals who are empathetic, supportive, and extremely educated about perinatal mental health. The hotline can also connect help seekers with therapists in their area, support groups (there are many free online support groups offered through PSI), PSI Support Coordinators in their state, Peer Mentors, and various other resources that support the wellbeing of perinatal individuals and their families.
“The Hotline creates a place where people can go to talk to professionals who are empathetic, supportive, and extremely educated about perinatal health” -Cleide Art, LMHC
Q: What skills guide your work when dealing with callers in need?
A: Being empathetic and person-centered are the most important and valuable skills I have. I try to meet every help seeker where they are, and I try my very best to give them what they need when on that particular day. Sometimes people just want to talk. Sometimes they just want information or resources. Whatever it is, I try to be there for them.
Q: From which home disciplines and professions do you source resources for the hotline?
A: The NMMHH is fully staffed by paid professionals. Every hotline counselor is a licensed professional or allied professional in their state. We currently have social workers, licensed mental health counselors, registered nurses, nurse midwives, lactation consultants, doulas, and psychologists who work on the hotline. Many are still practicing in their fields while also working on the hotline. It’s pretty amazing.
Q: What ethical considerations do hotline workers need to consider when working with callers?
A: In the work we do on the hotline, it’s important to be trauma informed. If we aren’t trauma informed, we can unintentionally do harm. It is also important to practice cultural humility, to challenge ourselves and always keep working toward cultural humility. Finally, it’s important to know when we are working with a help seeker who is out of our scope. Though we want to help everyone we talk to, there are times when they are going to get more appropriate support somewhere else. In this case we do our best to give our out-of-scope help seekers a warm handoff when possible to assure they are connecting with those more appropriate resources.
Q: What needs to happen so that 10 years from now we can say that resources are easily accessible for new and expecting mothers experiencing anxiety about parenthood?
A: It would be so great if mental health became a bigger part of the whole picture in terms of pregnancy and birth. Some doctors talk about and screen for mental health, but many don’t. The six-week follow up appointment is often the only post birth appointment the birthing person has, and that appointment is so often rushed and not focused on mental health and wellbeing. And of course, having more mental health providers who are trained in perinatal mental health would expand the field. It also helps if we can be honest about our own experiences. Pregnancy and postpartum can be so hard, and the more we talk about that the less alone we are in it.
Q: If others are interested in finding out more about you personally and professionally, where can they obtain this information?
A: I can be emailed at cleideartLMHC@gmail.com and welcome any questions.
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or mental health concerns following giving birth, please reach out to the professionals at the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS.