YWCA Utah and community partners announce statewide resource for maternal mental health

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kelsie Oliver tells how her pregnancy and postpartum depression, OCD and intrusive thoughts affected her well being. YWCA Utah, community groups and state lawmakers announced a new online resource aimed at helping Utah women, parents, and families find local resources for maternal mental health services, Feb. 25, 2020 at the Capitol.

This story discusses suicide. If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.

About three years ago, Kelsie Oliver had a beautiful baby girl. But three days after her daughter’s birth, Oliver started having troublesome thoughts, which she described as the “scariest thoughts you can ever think of” — either harming yourself or your child.

The thoughts got worse and worse, and she also suffered from panic attacks, OCD tendencies and extreme anxiety. Oliver said two months after her daughter was born, she became so desperate that whenever someone asked how she was doing she would lie.

“I was terrified that if I really was honest and I told them what was going on in my head, they would see me as an unfit mother and take her away." When Oliver’s daughter was 2 months old, she became suicidal and her husband had to take her to a psych ward, where she stayed for six days before going through an intensive outpatient program for three months.

But other moms won’t have to struggle like Oliver. In a meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday, several community partners announced they have designed an online resource called the Utah Maternal Mental Health Referral Network that can help. The online network holds information for 115 health care providers throughout Utah who specialize in providing maternal mental health.

“I’m now pregnant with my second child and I’m so excited because I know that with the programs they have put together that this story is going to be so different, I’m going to be OK, my family’s going to be OK," said Oliver.

Many women have struggled to find trained mental health care providers but Lynne Nilson with the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health said that will all change. The health care providers on the online network include psychotherapists, midwives, obstetricians, support groups and home visiting. Users of the resource can look for qualified providers by location, by health insurance, and by provider type.

“And we have all kinds of providers on there so maybe they’re not looking for a doctor, but maybe they’re looking for a support group or maybe their insurance doesn’t cover it so they can search by no insurance or what’s free on there," said Maternal Mental Health Specialist Brook Dorff.

Dorff said this issue is important. “Our rates are going up of depression and anxiety both during pregnancy and postpartum and again we’re trying to make sure that people know where to go and how to get help."

Nilson also testified to the importance of maternal mental health, saying “we know from research that mom’s mental health not only impacts her own health and the ability to live her full potential, but also impacts the life of her child and especially her family.”

The Bureau’s data shows that while the rate of postpartum depression among Utah moms has remained relatively stable, the rate of anxiety and depression during pregnancy continues to increase. And suicide takes a devastating toll on families and Utah communities.

The Utah Maternal Mental Health Referral Network is available at maternalmentalhealth.utah.gov.

Last legislative session, Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored a legislative request to appropriate funding for maternal health care services.

“If we don’t do good by our mothers and children then we really need to realign our priorities," Dailey-Provost said Tuesday.