The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Maternal mental health should be a priority for all

Placeholder while article actions load

As maternal mental health advocates, we appreciated Jennifer Wadsworth’s May 10 Health & Science article, “Rise of perinatal and postpartum depressions.” This problem demands urgent action. But the health-care system responses mentioned must be the beginning, not the end, of reform.

Well before the coronavirus, millions of pregnant women and mothers faced domestic or community violence, poverty and the denial of health care, food and child care, among other threats. Under those circumstances, anxiety, depression and other “disorders” are best understood as normal responses to very real dangers. The health-care system can do little to mitigate these threats. And, as the article noted, maternal mental health problems are more common among women of color and other marginalized people, whom the health-care system has historically underserved.

Progress requires community-based interventions focused on prevention alongside medical responses. And it requires that reform efforts be led and informed by women of color and other moms at greatest risk.

Congress is now considering long-overdue mental health legislation. Lawmakers must make community-based, equity-focused maternal mental health investments a centerpiece of that legislation. If they do, we can save lives and improve the well-being of millions of moms and their babies.

Tina Sherman, Apex, N.C.

The writer is senior campaign director for MomsRising.

Kay Matthews, Houston

The writer is executive director and founder of the Shades of Blue Project.

Twylla Dillion, Chicago

The writer is executive director of HealthConnect One.