Postpartum depression is real – and treatable

Joanne C. Harmon knows first-hand the experience of postpartum depression.

“For every child, I had experienced all types postpartum depression,” said the mother of four.

She wants others suffering from depression after birth to know there is help available. 

Harmon, a licensed professional counselor and registered nurse, is a co-founding member of the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Louisiana chapter. Harmon is Catholic and attends St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie.

She and Misty Wainwright, also a northshore licensed practicing clinician, have volunteered with PSI for nearly 10 years and are volunteer coordinators of the Louisiana chapter.

“PSI is all about the family and its mental health,” Harmon said. “There are so many tragedies that could be avoided if they had just been treated and supported – if people knew that (depression) was real and not fake.”

PSI Louisiana meets approximately every month or two on the second Tuesday of the month at 10 a.m. The nonprofit group organizes fundraisers and supports local groups helping those suffering from postpartum depression. The organization generally works against the stigma that many have, thinking postpartum depression isn’t as serious as it is.

“The more it’s brought to the forefront, the more awareness there is that women need to be treated,” Harmon said.

On July 21, PSI Louisiana will host “The Climb Out of the Darkness,” to raise awareness and provide education and resources to families struggling with pregnancy mood and anxiety disorders. The event will be held at Lafreniere Park in Shelter 1 from 9 to 11 a.m. Admission is free. The event will feature a one-mile fun walk and a breastfeeding tent. Other support groups such as This Mama Wines (this mamawines.com) and doula groups (trained professionals who work with women before and after the birth of a baby) will staff tents. 

Need for help grows

Until two years ago, there were no state PSI chapters, Harmon said. The main PSI headquarters is in Portland, Oregon, but was founded in 1987 by Jane Honikman in Santa Barbara, California.

Now there are 28 to 30 chapters nationwide and international chapters that help increase awareness about the emotional changes that women experience during pregnancy and postpartum.

Harmon found statistics from the American Psychological Association, Massachusetts General Hospital, NAMI.org (National Alliance for mental Illness) and the Centers for Disease Control that indicate that 1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 dads suffer from postpartum depression.

“As PSI Louisiana evolves and grows, so will the resources and people stepping up in other parishes to get involved, which is the goal,” Harmon said.

The local chapter hopes to soon offer training for professionals to do therapy for families who are experiencing depression during pregnancy and after a baby is born.

Additionally, men and women can seek help for postpartum depression by calling the PSI national “warm” line – 1 (800) 944-4773 – which is manned by a doctor. Postpartum Support International also hosts free, live phone sessions weekly on Wednesdays for moms, and on the first Mondays monthly for dads at 1 (800) 944-8766. Also visit postpartum.net.

For local details, contact Harmon at joanneharmonpsi@yahoo.com; joannececile@yahoo.com.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

Fun walk for postpartum depression

→ EVENT: Morning of activities to create awareness of postpartum depression in women 

and men.

→ WHEN: July 21, 9-11 a.m.

→ WHERE: Lafreniere Park, Shelter 1, 6000 Downs Blvd., Metairie.

→ WHAT: Support groups that offer help to those who experience depression during pregnancy or after birth will staff tents giving information. 

→ ADMISSION: Free.

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