There Is No Health Without Mental Health: Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

The transition to parenthood is often described as a journey, yet this word does not sufficiently capture the dramatic and profound nature of change and transformation that takes place during this time. A more appropriate term might be “odyssey.” There are very few, if any, other life experiences that match the physical, emotional, mental, relational, and existential upheaval inherent in becoming a parent.

Despite this reality, expectant and new parents often find that their mental well-being is forced to become an afterthought amidst the many rapid changes, stressors, and adjustments of this time – a theoretical priority that “should” get attention but gets pushed down the ever-growing list of to-do’s. The societal pressure to portray parenthood as idyllic and simply joyful contributes to difficulty acknowledging and addressing parental mental health needs. Systemic issues such as limited access to affordable healthcare, barely existent parental leave policies, and lack of childcare support contribute additional formidable obstacles to prioritizing mental well-being. Add financial constraints, lack of flexible work arrangements, and inadequate social support systems, and the recipe for overwhelm is complete.

It is very difficult to allocate time and resources to self-care and mental health as a new parent. This is alarming considering how vulnerable all individuals and families are to mental distress during this pivotal time. In order to change this status quo, we must begin with awareness and advocacy.

May is designated as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s work together to recognize that all mothers, birthing parents, non-birthing parents, and all families require and deserve mental health support. This is an urgent public health need. Parental mental health lays the foundation for healthy relationships, resilient children, and a bright future not only for individual families but entire communities.

Every voice and every action counts. Below we feature various resources to provide you with a helpful guide to getting involved. Remember that your daily life and conversations about mental health are also a powerful source of positive change: we need to silence the shame and stigma of mental health challenges and replace them with compassion and understanding that there is no health without mental health. It is all HEALTH and the right to health is a human right.

See below for advocacy and action steps:

Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance – Ways to Advocate

March of Dimes Action Network

Every Mother Counts – Advocacy Toolkit

Maternal Mental Health Now – Advocate for Better Care

Postpartum Support International: World Maternal Mental Health Day