Source: NJ Spotlight News
Poor mental health is the leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths, the federal government announced last year, with suicide attempts, drug use and other behavioral health issues impacting nearly one in four people who die during childbirth or over the following year.
The news prompted the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute to partner with the state Mental Health Association to develop a first aid training model designed specifically for perinatal health workers like nurses, midwives and doulas.
Now they’re taking the model nationwide.
“The need is urgent,” wrote Armonie Pierre-Jacques, a community health and policy associate with the Quality Institute, in an announcement last week that the model has won a key approval to be available nationally. “There is a critical need to invest more to address maternal mental health to reduce death and suffering surrounding pregnancy.”
The Institute’s goal is to teach health professionals to spot the signs of psychological distress in their clients, stabilize the situation and connect the person with appropriate help. Nationwide, as many as one in five of those who are pregnant or who are new mothers experience a mental health issue, according to advocates.
The Quality Institute, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, said 90 health care workers have been trained in the model in New Jersey. The state has some of the worst maternal health outcomes in the nation and a significant racial disparity that leaves BBlack women nearly seven times more likely to die during or after childbirth than white women.
The model used by the Mental Health Association throughout the state — and adapted for the perinatal program — was created by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. It aims to empower care providers without any additional clinical training to identify the signs of a mental health crisis in someone, intervene in an appropriate way and connect that person with the right services. As with CPR, the goal is to help the person who is suffering until professional help is available, the national council notes.
Through video, group discussion and role-playing exercises, participants are trained to identify the warning signs of a mental health crisis or active substance abuse, the impact these conditions have on individuals and their families and the benefits of quality treatment. The model includes a five-step process for assessing the situation, listening without judgment, reassuring the individual in crisis, providing information on resources and self-help strategies and encouraging them to connect with the right professional.