A Friend in Need- Three Steps to Help Moms Who are Struggling
Blog is written by PHA Board Member Shelly Tregembo. In addition to acting as Development Chair at PHA, Shelly leads the Live Well San Diego Support Team at the County of San Diego. With the support of communication, partner engagement and data professionals, the Live Well San Diego Support Team helps residents, businesses and community organizations build better health, live safely and thrive. Learn more about the vision and how to participate at: www.livewellsd.org.
Three Steps to Help Moms Who are Struggling
With one in five mothers experiencing depression or anxiety during or after their pregnancy, the need for all of us to have a good understanding of how to reach out and get our friends and loved ones connected to care is crucial.
Depending on each mom’s situation, different resources may be available. The following list is meant to provide a place to start when you encounter someone who needs help.
Step One- Ask the Question
While it seems obvious, many people see their friend smiling and posing with their baby and assume that all is well. It never hurts to ask how it’s going in a moment where your friend might have the opportunity to respond beyond the typical, “Everything is great.” You know your friend best so ask in a way that you think might solicit a real answer. Sometimes the best approach is to share some of your own experiences or struggles to offer an opening for them to vent or talk about some of their own challenges. A question about how they’re sleeping or how breastfeeding is going could provide a safe starting point for a more in-depth conversation around other issues.
Step Two- Know Where to Get Help
Urgent Situations– If a mom expresses that she is having thoughts of harming herself or others, quickly engaging mental health professionals is critical. The Access and Crisis Line is available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week and is staffed by trained personnel who can assist in emergency situations and get people connected to care. They can be reached at: (888) 724-7240.
For less urgent situations, there are several options that may be available for getting moms connected to care or additional support.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)– This often-overlooked resource is available through many employers and typically provides free or low-cost counseling or support groups on a limited basis. This is usually a separate benefit than your health insurance and has its own process for accessing services. Visit the employer’s website or contact Human Resources to determine if you have this benefit and how to access it.
Health Insurance– With most San Diegans now covered by some form of health insurance, this is a great option for many moms who would like to talk to a therapist or attend support groups. Whether through an employer-sponsored plan or through Covered California or a MediCal plan, mental health services are available to most. Each insurance plan has a different way to access services and this can usually be determined by calling the number on the back of the insurance card.
Many primary care physicians and pediatricians are also able to refer women and families to services so encourage your friends to ask when they’re attending their pregnancy check-ups or postpartum visits.
Community Health Clinics– Conveniently located throughout San Diego County, community health clinics are a great option for moms who have MediCal or don’t have health insurance. These locally-based health centers, often called Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs, offer a wide variety of services and support groups at low or no cost. An FQHC in your neighborhood can be found by visiting: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
Postpartum Health Alliance Warmline– PHA operates a warmline for moms, families and their loved ones to receive information and referrals to providers who have training or special knowledge in the area of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The PHA Warmline differs from the Access and Crisis Line in that the Warmline is staffed by trained volunteers and is meant to provide non-urgent referrals rather than immediate, life-saving therapeutic interventions. Individuals can call the Warmline and leave a voicemail message and receive a call back within 24 hours. The Warmline number is (619) 254-0023.
Step Three- Provide Support and Follow Up
What this looks like will differ from person to person but the key here is not to ask the question and bail! It can be really hard to follow through with something even when we know it’s the right thing to do.
Sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety and general mom-ing can get in the way and this is where friends can be particularly helpful.
Offer to look up the number of her EAP, sit with her while she makes the call or looks up the closest health center. We all have been in a place where we have needed a little nudge (or a BIG shove!) in the right direction. And don’t be afraid to enlist other friends, spouses or family members, if needed, to help. Additional support and perspectives can make a huge difference.
While certainly not an exhaustive list, hopefully, it will provide a good starting point.
Do you have any great resources you’ve used? Comment below and let us know!