So it's February and if you have lived in the United States after 1976, you probably know that it's Black History Month.
This seems like a perfect time to finish something that had been milling around in my head for some time. Black infants have twice the mortality rate of white babies the same age. Black mothers experience postpartum distress at nearly double the rate of white women. Data shows us time and again that there are severe health disparities in our black communities yet I still here people say things like "I don't see color" or "When it comes to skin, I'm colorblind." and I want to cry out "OPEN YOUR EYES!".
We at The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. are absolutely not color blind. Yes, I said we are NOT color blind. In fact, we see and celebrate every beautiful shade of melanin of every mother and her family. Diversity builds strength. Strong mothers grow strong families.
Refusing to be color blind is our way of saying, to every mom, we see you and you matter. It's our way of acknowledging that every mother comes from a different background and her cultural, gendered, racial, ethnic and religious experience is a part of what makes her motherhood experience.
Something we're painfully aware of is the disparities when it comes to mental health and minority communities. Our diverse board of directors consist of mothers, each from a different racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic back ground. Some of our own board members have felt the sting of discrimination first hand. We will not turn a blind eye to that.
According to the Florida Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring system (PRAMS) 61.4% of Black women surveyed self reported symptoms of postpartum depression. How many are not reporting their symptoms? How many mothers of color are struggling in silence, refusing to seek treatment because they fear the consequence of coming forward?
From the Florida Maternal, Infant, & Early Childhood Home Visiting Program 2015 Maternal Depression Analysis Report:
" Participant characteristics that were found to be associated with depression in the crude analysis included race, ethnicity, employment status, income, childhood abuse, and stress. However...only perceived parental stress remained significantly associated with depression...This implies that stress plays a strong role on the mental health status of women."
That same report noted 60.2% of black mothers with depressive symptoms verses 33.2% of white mothers.This is not okay.
The color of your skin or the community you are from should not ever be a barrier to competent mental health care. We stand with ALL moms and promise to do our best to remain culturally competent and sensitive to the needs of each individual we work with.
Come back for part two of this post, in honor of Black History Month. We'll be hearing from Gaetane Joseph-Rhodd and learning about the experience of being a mother of color and dealing with postpartum distress.
Riding out the storm,
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the