This is a pivotal moment for our country and for the cause of perinatal mental health. I have been working hard to find the words to authentically address the emotions that we are all feeling while focusing our concern for black and brown women, men, and families who are in the midst of, yet again, enduring and absorbing multiple traumas.
First, let me say that PSI has always been committed to helping Black families, yet this moment is without a doubt a renewed call to action.
These statistics are not new but important to share – and they remain unacceptable as ever:
- CDC data confirms that Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications, and twice as likely to lose an infant to premature death.
- According to the NIH, Black mothers are several times more likely to suffer from Postpartum Depression but less likely to receive treatment and follow-up.
- This year, we are painfully aware that African Americans are at significantly greater risk of contracting the potentially deadly Covid-19 virus and less likely to receive proper treatment, due to the same root causes of the effects of long-standing racism in social and healthcare systems.
It is imperative that we do our part to fight racism and improve these unjust outcomes.
It is long overdue for our entire nation to not only acknowledge institutional and systemic racism and the appalling impacts it has on our Black citizens, but to also start on a path toward true inclusiveness, healing, and equity. This won’t happen overnight, but we believe that it is our collective moral imperative. We know we will make mistakes as we learn, but we will not make the mistake of being silent or giving up because the work is hard. We can do this together.
As an organization, we know that we can do better and do more.
Black Lives Matter. That is not a slogan, it is a statement of truth.
“Matter” is the minimum.
Black lives are precious, worthy, and beloved.
We also know that it isn’t enough to say that we value diversity or to speak about inclusion in general terms. Now is the time to listen attentively and to be clear in our words and our actions. Now is the time to state plainly and unequivocally that Black Lives Are Precious, Worthy, and Beloved and do our part to live this simple truth.
I want to share with you a few PSI initiatives aimed at better serving Black families and other families of color, and invite your earnest feedback in how we can do more:
Perinatal Mental Health Alliance for People of Color (PMHA-POC): This essential organization was founded to fill a gap in support services for professionals and communities of color around perinatal mental health. PSI is proud that the PMHA-POC decided to be a program within PSI, and grateful to collaborate and learn together as we take action to meet our shared goals.
Online PMH Provider Directory: Our online directory identifies perinatal mental health specialists who are providers of color in the U.S. and Canada, and can be shared as a unique list of perinatal mental health providers of color.
Support Coordinators: Our goal is to have a PSI support coordinator of color in every state. Working with the PMHA-POC, we’ve developed a list of trained volunteers who identify as a person of color.
Scholarships for Trainings and Conference: For the last three years, we have used the Perinatal Action Fund to award scholarships to providers of color who work with underserved communities to attend PSI’s annual conference.
New Online Support Group for Women of Color: We are currently training facilitators for a new online weekly perinatal support group facilitated and held for women of color, to create a safe space to find emotional support during pregnancy or postpartum.
PSI Trainings: In 2019, we initiated a project to review and revamp our trainings to better address racism, health disparities, and cultural diversity. This ongoing improvement project has already made important changes: hiring Dr. Joanna Cole as our curriculum manager to oversee quality improvement including cultural humility, trauma-informed care, and health equity; adding 6 trainers who are women of color; and contracting with experts to integrate information about racism, equity, and oppression into our trainings.
Outreach to Black communities and representation in marketing/communications. PSI is listening, learning, and working to improve outreach and collaboration with black and brown families and providers. We have so much to learn from resilient organizations and many individuals, both within PSI and new to us, who have for years been developing policies and initiatives and striving to contribute to programs that fight inequities and close the gap in racial health disparities.
Finally, we know that conscious actions and clear metrics lead to real progress.
We have always been committed to standing with Black mothers, fathers, and their children to ensure that they do not feel alone to deal with the burden of perinatal mental health disorders. Today, we renew that commitment and our pledge to make meaningful and measurable change, and ask for your support as we find new and better ways to connect with and help Black families.
Black Lives Matter.
Wendy Davis, PhD, PMH-C
P.S. No more waiting lists for support groups … To commit to living our mission and serving Black families, all funds raised during the month of June will support the creation of additional Online Support Groups that will serve as safe spaces for pregnant and postpartum women of color. Funding will allow us to grow this crucial family service, and advertise it more widely. Please consider making a donation today and stand with us as we find new and better ways to support Black families. Thank you in advance.