Anchorage women push for more mental health awareness post childbirth

May is Maternal Mental Health Month, and a local group is working to help those struggling with being a mother.
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 4:57 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 20, 2022 at 7:30 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - May is Maternal Mental Health Month. It is a topic that counselor, former Olympian and mother of two four-year-old twins Holly Brooks is helping to bring greater awareness too.

Brooks is an Anchorage counselor who is working on spreading awareness about maternal health and working with local moms. Maternal mental health is a topic, she said, that is often not discussed.

“It’s really convenient to not talk about it,” Brooks said. “But it’s really important that we do.”

Brooks said that often, being a mother gets painted in a picture-perfect light, but that is not always the reality.

“Our cultural narrative is that having a baby is a wonderful thing, it’s is a blessing,” Brooks said. “It absolutely is, but it doesn’t come without some hardship as well.”

According to Brooks, when a woman becomes a mother, both her hormonal levels and identity can change. Brooks said that one in five women suffers from a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, which can include symptoms of depression or PTSD. Furthermore, she said that 75% of women are undiagnosed or untreated.

Brooks, both through her counseling practice and organization Mom’s Matter Now works with women to help them through the years post-childbirth. Brooks works with moms by doing psychological education, building a toolbox of coping skills, and working with them so that they understand how they are feeling is normal.

“It’s amazing just what can happen when you kind of say these secrets out loud,” Brooks said. “All of a sudden they don’t feel as shameful anymore.”

All the tools, according to Brooks, help bring awareness to a forgotten side of mental health.

“Women and birthing people tend to be very secretive about what they are experiencing,” Brooks said. “They don’t want to tell anyone because of the sense of shame.”

Brooks says that understanding Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders is the first step to breaking down the stigma surrounding maternal mental health.

“Most people just really romanticize and glorify motherhood,” Brooks said. “And don’t like to acknowledge that sometimes there’s a different side.”

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