PPostpartum depression affects 1 in 8 women in the United States. PPD, also known as perinatal depression, is a mood disorder that can occur after childbirth. Many women experience debilitating symptoms like anxiety, fear, and despair after giving birth. Sometimes PPD can impact the way a mother bonds with her child. The condition can lead to sleeping and eating problems if left untreated. Studies have shown that newborns who struggle to form a secure bond with their mother are more likely to develop lower cognitive abilities and are at increased risk of developing behavioral issues, NPR noted.
For black women, seeking care and treatment can be a difficult task due to socio-economic barriers. Racial bias in the health care system can lead to an inadequate treatment plan. Lack of health care and therapy costs also play a key role in the mental health care gap. According to Forbes, the average cost of psychotherapy in the United States ranges from $100 to $200 per session, many of which are not covered by health insurance. In 2020, 10.4% of black adults in the United States had no form of health insurance, NAMI noted.
So what does someone who fights the PPD do in these difficult circumstances?
This is where She Matters comes in to save the day. She Matters is a digital health platform specifically designed to support Black mothers struggling with postpartum depression. The company works with a tight-knit community of board-certified therapists who offer “culturally relevant” treatment plans for women of color. The organization also helps train healthcare staff on the “nuances and challenges” that black women often face when battling mental health issues like PPD.
“Therapists pay a fee to be on the app and to be connected to black women who want therapy. But what’s different with our app and others is that these therapists are culturally competent and understand the very tumultuous relationship that black women have had in the healthcare system,” said company co-founder Jade. Kearney, at TechCrunch in February. Registered users of the site can choose from over 180 trained therapists. Since the app opened in January, nearly 7,000 women have signed up to connect with qualified healthcare professionals on the app, and the community continues to grow.
The problem of PPD in black mothers can also be attributed to the crisis in maternal health care. Black women are 4 times more likely to die in childbirth and 80% more likely to return to the emergency room during their postpartum period, according to the She Matters website. To help bridge the maternal health care gap, the company created The Pink Book, an interactive map that lists the safest hospitals in 14 states with the largest African American populations in the United States. The amazing resource shows women where they are likely to have the best outcomes for their maternal care.
Trouble hits home for Kearney, who battled through PPD while earning her master’s degree at NYU.
“As I was trying to complete my second master’s degree, I had to figure out how to navigate this space on my own, because between cultural stigma and medical neglect for black women in the postpartum period, there really was no way out. for me. »
So Kearney decided to be the change she wanted to see in the world. The mental health advocate started the company while participating in NYU’s Digital Media Design program. She was tasked with creating an app for a school assignment, and the idea immediately came together at lightning speed, of course, with a few hurdles. Kearney had no prior entrepreneurial experience, so she had to learn how to run the business and raise capital.
“When I [started saying] that I was a founder of technology, I really started to encounter racism. It’s not that I haven’t experienced racism and sexism, but once I decided that was my title, I started experiencing all these microaggressions,” she said. .
Social stigma of mental health
For black adults, receiving care for mental health issues can come with negative stigma. Research shows that many black adults associate mental health issues with shame and weakness. Some black men and women fear discrimination if they seek medical and professional help for depression. This is a valid concern, given that the medical and legal system has failed members of the black community in the past. Look no further than Brianna Grier, a 28-year-old woman who recently died while in police custody while suffering from a schizophrenic episode. Black mothers are also at a higher risk of having their children removed by child welfare if they are deemed medically unfit.
Fortunately, She Matters is doing the work to empower women to prioritize and seek help for mental health issues and Kearney is on a mission to expand the company’s services. After joining the Techstars startup program, Kearney was able to raise $300,000 in angel investment capital to help Black Mamas in need. “I’ve cried more behind closed doors in the past 12 weeks than in my entire life, but I refuse to give up because black women are hurting and the problem is fixable,” she said before add, “It’s about community and communication, and it’s about making as much noise as possible in the health industry so they know we won’t stop until maternal morbidity and outcomes for patients will not improve drastically.
If you or a loved one is struggling with PPD, check out She Matters to connect with mental health professionals and receive great resources on treatment plans.
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