Maternal Mental Health Month declared by County's Board of Health


The Thurston County Board of Health has declared May 2024 as Maternal Mental Health Month to address the critical issue of maternal mental health.

The proclamation emphasizes the importance of emotional, psychological, and social well-being for individuals during pregnancy and the postpartum period, recognizing the profound impact on families and communities.

"Thurston County recognizes the importance of advocating for maternal mental health and the need to enhance access to care to better support the mental health and well-being of birth parents," the proclamation states.

The board also addressed racial inequities in maternal healthcare, noting that 40% of Black women experience maternal mental health symptoms, yet they are less likely to receive treatment.

The proclamation highlights statistics and research findings, revealing that perinatal mood disorders (PMD) are among the leading complications of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting up to 1 in 7 pregnant and postpartum women in the U.S.

In Thurston County, 13.2% of women experience postpartum depression, exceeding the state average of 11.9%.

The proclamation also underscored the severe consequences of untreated PMD, including increased risks of infant fatalities, anxiety, depression, and developmental issues for children.

Elizabeth Hawkin, Thurston’s education specialist on mental health, elaborated on the devastating effects of PMD on both mothers and their children.

"Having a baby is usually a really joyous occasion for most parents, but sometimes it's cut short when parents, mainly moms, are dealing with postpartum depression or perinatal mood disorders," she noted.

Hawkin explained that untreated PMD could lead to severe consequences, including postpartum psychosis and increased risk of infant fatalities.

Jason Bean-Mortinson, representing the Thurston Mason Behavioral Health Administrative Service Organization, emphasized the personal and professional dedication to expanding mental health resources.

"I want to thank everybody as someone who has experienced mental health struggles myself and has dedicated my career to expanding resources and support for people dealing with mental health issues," he said.

Marilyn Roberts, Executive Director of NAMI Thurston Mason, detailed the organization's efforts for mental health awareness.

Roberts said NAMI has been instrumental in raising awareness and providing support since its inception in 1979. She highlighted the local affiliate's initiatives, including educational programs and advocacy efforts, stressing the importance of eradicating stigma and fostering public education.

"Today, we are an alliance of over 600 affiliates in 48 states. We work to raise awareness, provide support, and offer education," Roberts explained. She introduced NAMI's "Take a Moment" campaign, which aims to cultivate empathy, support mental wellness, and encourage open dialogues about mental health.

The Board of Health urged all residents to actively participate in raising awareness, providing resources, and supporting those in need to improve the mental health and well-being of birth parents and their families within the community.


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