May 4, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Hello, MindSite News readers! It’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and we look at how motherhood triggers or exacerbates a mental illness in one in five new moms. In other news: Finland found a way to virtually eliminate homelessness – and why everyone trying to house families and others should take note.

Plus, why emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse. The Jonas Brothers’ surprising parenting advice. How to set up a trust for a loved one with mental illness. And more.

“A lonely road”: How motherhood can trigger mental illnesses and worsen existing ones

New and expecting mothers face an onslaught of changes to their day-to-day lives, bodies, and hormones. Many adjust to the changes, but an estimated one in five develop mental health problems during pregnancy or during  the year after birth. Depression is the most common disorder, followed by anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and postpartum psychosis. This Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, CNN is sharing the mental health challenges of nine mothers from across the globe.

In their own voices, they tell what their motherhood experience is versus what they anticipated. Some share how challenging it is to raise a child amid inequality and poverty; others, how difficult it is to get help for postpartum depression. Take Meradeth Montoya of Socorro, New Mexico, mom to a 5-month-old daughter. Since giving birth, she’s struggled with severe depression and thoughts of suicide: “How can I be a good mom when all I do is cry all day?” Montoya’s concern is the lack of resources and scant mental health support available to new mothers in the U.S.

“I don’t think mothers are supported physically and psychologically here,” Montoya said. “I actually had to wait almost three to four months to see a psychiatrist here.” For some distraught moms in her situation, she observes, that might be too late.

Believe it or not, Finland has virtually ended homelessness. Why can’t we?

The first thing I thought when I read that the Finns had all but eliminated homelessness in their nation is that they were giving people lots of money to afford housing. In reality, according to reporting from the Toronto Star, they did something even simpler: The government simply housed people who were living on the streets. And here’s the kicker: The government used a Housing First approach, which posits that people “are better able to move forward with their lives if they are first housed” – without conditions such as requiring that people be sober or in drug treatment.

The result? People struggling with addiction, joblessness, and other mental and physical challenges exacerbated by homelessness were able to focus on getting help for those issues. Now, says the article, most previously unhoused Finns not only have homes, but many have started paying the rent on their own. The strategy is paying off for everyone involved, even saving Finland’s government money in the long run – an estimated 15,000 euros a year for each person in supported housing. And Finland plans on eliminating homelessness by 2027.

According to federal figures, there are more than 580,000 unhoused people in the U.S. The National Center on Homeless Families puts that higher, estimating that there are more than one million homeless children in the United States, counting those living with their families in cars, in shelters and in relatives’ homes. Maybe our lawmakers can find inspiration from what’s working for the Finns.

The scars of emotional abuse can last a lifetime. Here’s what research suggests we do to avoid it

Not all child abuse leaves visible bruises. Emotional abuse is a pattern of hostile verbal and non-verbal communication, including insults, name calling, and withholding love or affection. Researchers who conducted the Australian Child Maltreatment Study, told The Conversation that since the abuse comes from the most significant adults in a child’s life as they are forming an identity, it can undermine their self-worth, self-image, and physical health – potentially for a lifetime. Growing up with emotional abuse is linked to depression, anxiety disorders, obesity, binge-drinking, and dependence on cannabis, among other things.

Importantly, the researchers argue that a key way to reduce or eliminate emotional abuse is for society to provide families with more support. Policies that combat poverty and food insecurity, while promoting access to high-quality and affordable childcare, educational, and mental and physical health resources are crucial. In addition, parents need help learning to be parents, they say: Programs that teach parents supportive (and non-abusive) child-rearing strategies and enhance their parental confidence can likely prevent abuse before it starts.

In other news…

The Jonas Brothers share a lot with each other, but never parenting advice, Fatherly reports. “It’s kind of like an unspoken rule,” said Kevin Jonas when the trio visited SiriusXM radio. “We just do our own thing; do it your own way.” Added Nick Jonas: “It’s a really healthy thing that we never really spoke about, but I think it’s the right thing. So to all the siblings listening, this is some advice for you.”

Ever considered setting up a trust to support loved ones with mental illness? This report from NerdWallet, republished by the Seattle Times, suggests trusts to aid loved ones who are primarily independent, but struggle with managing their finances. “It can simply be a trust that says, ‘This money is to be used to take care of my sister who is high functioning [with depression], but is not great with money,” said attorney Lillie Nkenchor. In addition to covering living expenses, trusts can also help beneficiaries avoid probate.

There’s a clear message for parents in writer Laurie Udesky’s gripping story for MindSite News on how some former violent extremists are working with anti-hate groups to help others exit extremism: No matter how repulsed and sick at heart you may be if your kids fall prey to extremism, don’t cut them off. Research shows support from a loved one plays a strong role in helping young people renounce hate.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently declared loneliness a matter of public health – a report that’s getting some air play. WNYC’s Death, Sex, and Money podcast is dedicating three episodes this month to mental health, starting with the Surgeon General’s report. Host Anna Sale spoke on WDET’s Detroit Today! about the importance of Murthy’s declaration and the human need for social connection. It’s a 50-minute listen.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Type of work:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...