For this 3-part series on postpartum depression, we interviewed Mary Wise, MA, MFA, BSN-RN, who is the Chief of Maternal Health Services for Delaware Health and Social Services’ (DHSS) Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH). Mary will talk about what postpartum is, common and myths, and how to get help.

5. What should someone do if they have postpartum depression? How can they get help?

If someone has any symptoms of perinatal or postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis, etc., they should know they are not alone, there is nothing wrong with them, and there is help to support them on their path to the other side of this, whatever that may look like. Even the smallest symptom should be taken seriously and reported to a provider for support. They can speak to any provider they trust, whether it’s their primary care physician, OBGYN, pediatrician, someone at the ER, urgent care, or anywhere else. They can even contact the Bridge Clinic that is located in each of the three counties, and their staff will provide therapeutic support and work to connect them with outside resources. The New Castle County Bridge Clinic is open 24/7 and their number is 302-255-1650. They can provide immediate assistance and connect clients with their locations in Kent and Sussex Counties.

It’s important to keep in mind that if one provider does not meet their needs, keep looking for one who does. Not every provider will be the right fit for them, but there are many out there who will be.

In addition to contacting a provider, there are a number of confidential hotlines available free of charge that give immediate assistance and support. The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline is a free and confidential hotline for those who are in the perinatal period. Anyone can call or text 1-833-943-5746 in English or Spanish; an interpreter service is also available in 60 languages. It’s important to note that this is NOT an emergency crisis line. This is for real-time support, education, and resources only.

In an emergency situation, they can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by calling 988 or the National Crisis Text Line by Texting HOME to 741741, about any type of crisis. These free and confidential services are also available nationwide 24/7, and anyone can use them for themselves or for someone else. And of course, 911 can also be a good local crisis line for immediate medical or police dispatch, depending on need.

Postpartum Support International (PSI) also has their own English and Spanish HelpLine available by calling 1-800-944-4773. Those who call can leave a confidential message at any time and a trained volunteer will return the call during business hours. The purpose of this hotline is to listen and provide emotional support, answer questions, offer encouragement, and provide resources. This, also, is NOT for use in an emergency.

PSI’s website also has online resources such as education and group chats for birthing people and even has a group chat for their partners.

6. Is there anything else you would like to add/would like the readers to know?

When thinking about Maternal Mental Health, it’s important to include the whole person and the whole family. People who experience PMADs may need medication, counseling, and even support for their ADLs or activities of daily living (such as child care, laundry, cleaning, hygiene, etc.). They may have experienced trauma and be in need of targeted therapy. And they may also need support with social determinants of health (SDOH), such as housing, legal aid, safety, transportation, or employment. Supporting someone through a mental health crisis, whether long- or short-term, needs a whole-life wrap-around approach to be most successful.

The resources I mentioned are the best place to begin and from there, they’ll be directed to more resources that are specific to their unique needs. Each individual, has very specific needs because of their unique experiences and histories as well as the cultures and ethnicities they are a part of, so it’s important that there is a plan in place that accounts for that individuality.

The perinatal period brings with it a great deal of complexity. This is the time in a person’s life, in a family’s life, when they bridge into another way of living. It’s a time to focus on building a strong foundation, not when symptoms of PMADs first appear, but during the entire process. For this reason, creating a family care plan, crisis plan, and connecting to a strong web of support prior-to and throughout the perinatal period is key. If someone has a strong foundation in place prior to symptom onset, and if that foundation is tended to and fortified throughout the perinatal period, there is a much greater chance that the person will not only survive a PMAD diagnosis but thrive along with their family when they reach the other side.

Guest Blogger: Mary Wise, MA, MFA, BSN-RN

Mary Wise, MA, MFA, BSN-RN, is the Chief of Maternal Health Services for Delaware Health and Social Services’ (DHSS) Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH). In this role, she leads initiatives designed to support the mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment needs of birthing people in the state of Delaware. She is part of the core faculty for the Peer Recovery Specialist ECHO series, created in partnership between the Weitzman Institute, DSAMH, Help is Here Delaware, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Mary also provides subject-matter expertise to inform policy and standards and to support grant-funded projects. In addition, Mary serves as a Commissioner for Delaware’s Maternal and Child Death Review Commission (MCDRC) and is a participating member of the Commission’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRc).

She is an active member of the Delaware Perinatal Quality Collaborative (DPQC), the Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium (DHMIC), and DHSS’s Multi-divisional Perinatal Workgroup and Advisory Committee. She is also a writer and has previously worked as a registered nurse and as an educator of children and college-level adults. Adding to her professional background, Mary is a single mother of 2 teenagers and has a wide variety of lived experience that informs her work in all areas. These help fuel her passion about reducing maternal mortality and morbidity, eliminating health disparities and stigma, and supporting the mental health and substance use disorder treatment needs of this population. She believes the path forward is through a holistic approach that addresses the needs of the entire family unit. This ideally incorporates a web of multi-disciplinary care and resources, which address not only behavioral health and medical needs but also social determinants of health, including those nuances well beyond what is traditionally thought of as basic needs.