Treating Depression More Effectively in New Mothers


[Laquanda Harris-George] I had my first son
when I was 18. My son was born sick, he had pneumonia. It was a very hard and trying time.
Scared, I didn’t know anything, and then I found out when he was 9 months, that I was
5 months pregnant with his brother. I was not aware consciously that I was suffering
from depression. It made the simplest things very hard, nearly impossible to do. [Sheree
Toth] We have extensive research that shows that when moms have a baby that they’re
certainly at significantly increased risk of depression. And when you’re looking at
moms who have multiple stressors in their lives, including living in poverty, living
in neighborhoods with high crime, about 1 in 4 women experience major depressive disorders.
[Harris-George] After dealing with a sick child and having another child unexpectedly,
it was hard, and that’s when I got introduced to the program. [Margaret Figueroa] I worked
with Laquanda for about a year. The IPT program is a home visiting model, so I would go out
to her home on a weekly basis. The majority of the focus is on what’s currently happening,
right now, and what is contributing to their mood, whether it’s events, situations, relationships
they might be in. [Toth] Unfortunately there’s a significant stigma still associated with
seeking help for a mental illness and I think it’s even worse in minority populations.
There’s somewhat of a sense of, “we should be able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”,
and, “we really don’t need any extra help”. [Harris-George] Something’s going on, but
you can’t quite put your finger on it. Until I was presented with the information it was
something that I never really heard, or was aware I was going through, but it helped me
pinpoint what was the trigger that caused it and ways to treat it. [Toth] It’s so
important as a field that we continue to expand our efforts to look at whether these interventions
can be effective with lower-income, more diverse populations, and I think this is a really
important step in that direction. [Harris-George] While I was in the program, I got pregnant
with my last son. I was at a better place to be able to receive him. Margaret helped
me to keep my head above water, to keep level-headed. [Figueroa] Laquanda was a bit more unique
in that she had the family support, she’s married and parenting her 3 children along
with her husband. While she had that good support, she was also struggling with the
depressive symptoms that were creeping up on that day-to-day basis for her. [Harris-George]
I didn’t see my child as a burden, so much, but I saw him as a priority. She worked with
me to help me see that it was OK for me to set goals and say, “I can still do something
with my life”. [Figueroa] Well it feels good to see her succeed and attain some of
those goals that she had set for herself, a long time ago, before she had children.
[Harris-George] I’ve always said I want to be in the medical field, and I am going
to school now to be a dental hygienist. I’m very happy. It’s been a long time coming.

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