Source: NJ Spotlight News
To train the perinatal professionals, the Quality Institute created scenarios that involved people in crisis both before and after giving birth. One scenario descries Maria, who is nine weeks pregnant with her second child, but “ultimately experiences early, worsening, and then crisis mental-health signs and symptoms” the institute notes.
The Quality Institute led training sessions that stretched over four days, largely in communities in Essex, Union and Morris counties, it said. As a result, 90 perinatal community health workers were certified in pregnancy-related mental health first aid.
Surveys and interviews with these workers showed almost everyone learned something about mental health, the related stigma and how to help those who suffer from psychological issues when pregnant. More than nine out of 10 said they also gained an understanding of the community resources that are available to help patients who are struggling, according to the institute. Many trained also said they found the experiencing empowering and confidence-building.
When surveyed three to six months later, participants said they continued to use the skills they learned when working with pregnant clients, the Quality Institute reported. “Adding maternity-specific scenarios to the existing Mental Health First Aid curriculum is an immediate way to provide mental health education to perinatal community health workers,” the Quality Institute wrote in a white paper on the program.
Linda Schwimmer, the president and CEO of the institute, said they are continuing to conduct training sessions in New Jersey, thanks in part to funding from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. The institute has also hired the South Jersey Perinatal Consortia, a collaboration involving health care clinicians and providers, to train the professionals who lead wrap-around programs for those who go through pregnancy with substance abuse issues, she said.
Earlier this month the institute’s perinatal training model was approved by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing for use nationwide. America has for years had the highest maternal-mortality rate of any wealthy nation and this gap is growing, according to the Commonwealth Fund foundation, with nearly 24 deaths per 100,000 live births here as of 2022, more than three times that of the United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland and 10 times that of Australia.
“As a certified instructor who helped pilot these new scenarios, it’s gratifying that our work at the Quality Institute will now support efforts throughout the country to address maternal mental health,” Pierre-Jacques wrote.