I'm quite obviously a white woman.
White women have a privilege that women of color do not.
Let's face it. We have many. Not just one. Many.
The news every single day shows us just how many.
But for this post my point is going to focus on postpartum and pregnancy mental health.
And yes, I'm back to talking about the Warrior Mom Conference.
I can't help it.
It's THAT important.
Much of this conference covered the importance of reaching and supporting mamas of color who may not know that help is out there.
Women who struggle culturally to admit that help is needed.
Women who must hide what they're feeling and experiencing because people just like them? They see confessions as weakness, failure, lack of so much. They look over and think, what's wrong with her?
But this is not how it should be.
Women of color need to know that we're here to support them. Their fellow Warrior Moms. Regardless of the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, the way that I look, talk, seem. Regardless of all of that? I'm here. For each and every mama who might need me.
How do we reach them? What do we say? How do we express that we're not judging? This was covered throughout the conference and one particular session dove into the importance of recognizing what we have to take into account as we move forward and reach out.
Divya Kumar, Sc.M.,CPD, CLC spoke on expanding outreach to underserved communities. Some of her very relevant and important points follow:
We need to recognize and reach past our own privilege. It's difficult to talk about but we have to.
Kumar requested that we complete an exercise where we took a few moments to write down our own privileges. After doing so we discussed these with our neighbors. I am privileged to be white. I'm not always privileged to be a woman. Among women and men, I'm not. Among other women, I am, in that I have access to the help I need - to the finances I need - to all sorts of things that make up the life that I live. Taking a moment to see that others do not have these things shows me the privileges I DO have.
I'm a straight woman. I have no concerns about walking hand-in-hand with my partner. I have privilege. I'm a Jewish woman. This is a minority religion in the area I live in (and in many areas). I do not go to church. This is something where I lack privilege.
I'm a woman who experiences anxiety. I take medications. This is a mixed bag here. I'm not privileged because people who experience mental illness are often looked at as lacking. However, as stated before, among many I am privileged because I can access the help I need. The medications. The doctors. The support. My culture does not ask me to hide my emotional well-being or lack thereof. I am privileged again.
Our identities and privilege affect our experience with perinatal emotional complications. It effects what treatment options we feel we have, whom we tell, resources we can access, the words we use, etc.
Words are not enough. We need to SHOW people. They need to know someone is going to be there who looks like them. We need to SHOW THEM.
We need to demonstrate every day, all the time, that what we do is for EVERYONE.
As indicated in my initial recap post about the conference, Dr. Lekeisha Sumner spoke of statistics and shared how depression and anxiety are more likely to occur in African American and Latina women. She also spoke of the many ways that culture can both, be something that deters women from getting treatment AND be something that helps block stress from making a tremendous impact.
We need to see the benefits of culture and ethnicity. We need to recognize them. Acknowledge them. And then take very careful steps into the mix. Steps that enable us to help women who feel that they're unable to reach out and ask for help because it's not accepted in their community. Steps that ensure that these women know that they're important and valued, and their culture is, too.
I had the opportunity to meet a new friend and fellow blogger at the conference, as well, and she sums up her experience, her thoughts, her feelings and so much more in a recap that covers the importance of her voice, as a black woman who is experiencing maternal mental illness. I'd love for you to take a few minutes to read her words over at Honestly Mama G.
I've been writing this post since last week. I was drained, exhausted, happy, overwhelmed and more. But this post - it wouldn't flow - I had so much to say, so many thoughts. I wanted to stress the urgency and the importance - without stepping out and flashing my own badge of privilege (goodness, you know how a word looks wrong every time you type it sometimes? That's this word for me, right now!) inappropriately.
But if my privilege helps me get help to people who need it? I'm doing it.
If - because I'm a white woman who knows that where I show up for support and help there will be people who look just like me - if being that woman enables me to speak up and create some noise? I'm doing it.
If it takes my voice to shout loudly, hand-in-hand, arms linked, with the voices of women of all races, religions, cultures, backgrounds - if it takes that to ensure that we're all heard? I'm doing it.
There are so many voices murmuring. So many sounds behind us. Voices questioning. Asking, what can I do? What could I possibly say that would make a difference? Be enough? Help anyone? If you're not asking these questions of yourself because you're TAKING ACTION? Keep at it. If you're not asking yourself these questions because you're afraid of the answers? ASK.
You need to be heard. I need to be heard. We all need to be heard.
Speak up. Speak up with me. I'm doing it.
Please - remember that if you or someone you know needs help with maternal mental health related issues - there are many organizations out there to support you.
If you're looking online head to:
Postpartum Support International
And if you're local to me in the Triangle, NC area, please reach out to Postpartum Support and Education, either by email or by calling 919-454-6946 and leaving a message so someone can get back to you.