Tell us about PSI’s volunteer support coordinator program.
Would love to! The role of all Coordinators is to provide 3 things – Education, Empathy and Resource Referrals. There are times when a person reaches out for support and doesn’t even know what words to use, to describe what they are experiencing. Coordinators can help provide a bigger picture to help make sense of the different ways perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are experienced, the risk factors as well as the treatment options available. They provide much-needed support and encouragement along the way. When the person is ready to take the next steps to getting the help they need, the Coordinators will help them find resources that will work best for their needs (insurance, location, areas of specialization).
Do you need to be a professional within the perinatal mental health field to volunteer as a support coordinator?
Not at all! Our volunteers just need to have compassion for those who are struggling and a desire to help. Our orientation includes basic training, so the Coordinators can feel comfortable talking about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and treatment options.
In addition to being PSI’s Support Coordinator Manager, you are a support coordinator yourself. Share with us about your experience and the impact you’ve made as a volunteer.
I honestly have lost track, over the last 7 years. I will say that I feel like I make a bigger impact as a Coordinator than as a Licensed Mental Health Provider.
I remember connecting with one parent who got my name from her mother. Her mom and I had chatted while walking our dogs in the neighborhood and I tend to mention my role whenever possible, just in case. The daughter was nearing the end of her maternity leave and dreading the return to work. Her anxiety was sky-high and all attempts to find a therapist had been frustrating dead ends. As we talked, I started to suspect that perhaps she had been experiencing intrusive thoughts. I gently shared that “by the way, in case it is helpful for you or someone you know, many parents experience unwanted thoughts, images or ideas that pop in their head out of nowhere and can be incredibly distressing. Just know that this is a thing and it has a name – intrusive thoughts. They do not mean that you want the terrible thing to happen, nor that it is a premonition that something bad is going to happen. Instead, it is just your brain on overdrive, thinking of all possible things that can go wrong, so you can prevent it. It actually shows how much you love your baby and want your baby to be safe.
She was silent for several moments and shared that she has been plagued by these thoughts for months but terrified to talk about them to anyone. We talked for a while about how they can be treated and she is not destined to have these thoughts for the rest of her life. After our conversation, I found a few therapists that take her insurance, have specialized training for working with pregnant and postpartum clients and have openings. I saw her mom a few weeks later and she said that our conversation and the new therapist made all the difference in the world. She said that her daughter was back to her normal self again and able to actually finally enjoy motherhood!
Where are the highest areas of need in the volunteer support coordinator program?
Specializations: Dads, Navy, Loss, Postpartum Psychosis (ideally a provider with professional experience)
Locations: Philadelphia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Kentucky, Idaho, California (but we will take help almost anywhere!)
Please elaborate on the critically important role PSI support coordinators play in connecting help-seekers with the right care.
There is a lot of misinformation about mental health challenges during pregnancy and postpartum out there. We hear often about parents who have reached out to their OB and only been offered “it will get better…” or a prescription for medication. While medication can absolutely be a part of a treatment plan, it is not the only option available. OBs tend to not have time to really talk about what is going on, and their resource lists may be woefully out of date. Coordinators do the best they can to know the resources available in their community or related to their area of specialization, so they can likely share options that are unknown to the parents’ medical provider.
Our volunteers can take more time to talk and provide information that can help a parent to understand what is going on and how they can get the help they need. Coordinators listen and can validate the parents’ struggles.
How do you begin the process of becoming a volunteer support coordinator?
Very easy! Visit https://www.postpartum.net/join-us/volunteer/supportcoordinator/ for more information or take the next step and fill out this application: https://goo.gl/forms/7dyZcQ4T70pfGo8a2.
Melissa Bentley, Support Coordinator Manager
Learn More About Melissa