The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline is Here!
You are not alone. That’s what the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) wants new parents to know. Last month, HRSA launched a 24-hour maternal mental health hotline (1-833-9-HELP4MOMS or 1-833-943-5746) which offers free and confidential access to professional counselors that provide mental health support, resources, and referrals to pregnant and postpartum mothers and their loved ones. It is a resource I wish that I’d had when I gave birth to my son 20 years ago. For months after he was born I was barely eating and crying all the time and everywhere. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I was dealing with something that might have been helped by a diagnosis and treatment.
Kudos to the folks behind the new hotline, their website makes clear that you do not have to have a formal diagnosis to access this resource. They encourage you to use the hotline if you are feeling sad, overwhelmed, worried, concerned that you aren’t good enough as a mom or exhausted. Check, check, and check—--I would have definitely dialed their number back then!
Their website correctly points out that “difficulties such as depression and anxiety around pregnancy and after the baby is born are common and treatable”. In fact, maternal mental health disorders are the most common pregnancy and childbirth complication. New parents of all cultures, ages, races and income-levels deal with these conditions. However, we know that health inequities abound in the US and women of color face even higher barriers to accessing treatment. So it is heartening to hear that the hotline counselors have been trained in how to lend culturally appropriate and trauma-informed support and that they will provide referrals that are in line with your preferences, including ethnicity and language preferences.
Counselors are available in English and Spanish and, via professional interpretation, in over 60 languages including Arabic, Kreyol, and Mandarin. Additionally, they are available via text message.
Since the maternal mental health hotline is not a crisis hotline, you may have to wait a few minutes to access a counselor, depending on how busy they are. Still, spread the word about this new resource! It is sorely needed, especially these days when the stressors for parents are very high and range from the mundane (increasing prices on everything!) to the unacceptable (continued mass gun violence).
Keep in mind that the hotline is not a crisis hotline. Someone who is feeling suicidal should call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Additionally, there is a new crisis hotline that will be available on July 16th in the traditional three-digit format. Just call or text 988 to be connect to trained counselors in times of a mental health, substance use or suicide crisis.
Here at MomsRising we continue advocating for the needs of mothers and their families and this tool has the potential to be a great one. That said, it is only one tool, there are others (outlined in pending legislation) that will go far in addressing the maternal mental health crisis. We encourage you all to make your voices heard by urging our lawmakers to sign onto these bills and writing a letter to the editor of your local paper to amplify the call for more resources. Let them know that birthing people are truly not alone, we have their backs!