Hotlines for parents in mental health crisis – The Boston Globe


In April the White House announced 150 million dollars in funding community resources to improve maternal and child health across the country. The money, while not enough to meet the overwhelming need for maternal mental health resources, is a ray of hope. Last month, a federal task force to improve maternal mental health released a report what did you find “the unmet need for treatment of maternal mental health conditions and [substance use disorders] “It has reached a critical point.” The lack of resources for mothers has also led to an increase in preventable deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maternal mortality rate in the United States it is 2 to 3 times higher than that of other high-income countries, and few resources have been focused solely on mental health.

“That’s a surprise to a lot of people. They tend to think about things that happen in the hospital,” Dr. Michael Warren, associate administrator of the federal Office of Maternal and Child Health, told me. Instead, Warren said, problems like depression, addiction and suicide can emerge long after a new mother leaves the maternity ward. For the past two years, Warren and his staff have led the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline, 1-833-852-6262, which offers free and confidential support for mothers and their families. So far, the hotline has received 33,000 calls from across the country and new federal funds will go toward marketing the hotline so more parents know it exists, Warren said. “It’s okay to say I can’t do this alone and I need help,” Warren said. “Some people don’t have those support systems.”

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But despite that assurance, many mothers have mental health issues that they don’t talk about because the stigma of mental illness is so strong and, culturally, mothers are expected to be able to handle everything and not complain. Some mothers fear that asking for help will result in their child being taken away by child protective services or that it will result in a visit from the police. Parents, especially poor and working-class ones of color, have long been “over-policed” by child protective services, according to ProPublica. report found. Added to this is the added stress of work, a lack of family or community support, and the increasing need and costs of child care, all of which can exacerbate mental health problems.

“The mental health crisis is coming to a head and it’s a difficult time to get services, especially if you’re poor,” said Sarah Brinley, executive director of the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Parents Helping Parents, which operates a 24-hour anonymous service. “Parenting Stress Line” to help parents in crisis (1-800-632-8188). Some calls include parents “sobbing into the phone, where they can barely catch their breath,” Brinley told me. “We get calls from people who are waiting for help for their depression, or who are calling because they have a child who is being bullied, who is cutting, or who is being violent.” For some callers, the hotline, which is free, may be the only help they can afford to access. “Even for people who have insurance there is a long waiting list, or some providers won’t accept it,” Brinley said. “Who is going to pay $250 an hour for a therapist?”

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But even mothers who have access to insurance say they, too, need better resources to address maternal mental health, even after the postpartum phase. One mother I spoke to recalled having suicidal thoughts and going to her local hospital for psychiatric treatment. The pressure of being a mother, being a wife, caring for older members of her family, and working full-time led her to suffer what she described as a nervous breakdown. But what worried her was the lack of awareness on the part of health professionals about what caused her to collapse. “There wasn’t a show that sat me down and said, ‘You’re a mom who’s going through immense stress,’” she said.

That is why it is essential to have resources such as Parent Stress Line and the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline which are free and available 24 hours a day. I’m glad these hotlines exist because I also know firsthand how treacherous it can be to ask for support as a mom, especially if you’re a mom in crisis. It is important to note that these hotlines are there to offer emotional support, but they are also equipped to do what they call a “warm” transfer to a crisis hotline. like 988the national suicide and crisis lifeline, if the parent is experiencing suicidal ideation or a severe mental breakdown.

On the other hand, Brinley said his hotline also receives referrals from national hotline 211, which offers help to people struggling with everything from paying their bills to their mental health. At least half of the people who call the Massachusetts-based hotline do so from other states. “We want to be that bridge,” Brinley said. “We’re trying to prevent that crisis, to get you to a place where you can hopefully make a plan about what you’re going to do.” And for parents who feel guilty about having to make a call, Brinley offers this advice: “Just the fact that you called us shows how much you love your child.”

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Raising children is difficult. Parents should know that in times of crisis, help is just a call away.

Tanzina Vega is a journalist whose work focuses on inequality. She is a contributing writer for the Globe Opinion.

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