Strong As a Mother
Championing Maternal Mental Health in Delaware
Women of every culture, age, income, and race experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). PMADs are the primary complication of pregnancy, childbirth, and up to twelve months postpartum, with over 500,000 women diagnosed with postpartum depression each year in the United States. Yet, with the necessary mental health care options often limited to well-resourced families, 75% of women diagnosed with PMADs do not—or cannot—get treatment; symptoms and barriers to care are exacerbated for women of color by the stressors of poverty and systemic racism in health care settings.
Angelina Spicer is no stranger to these statistics. The comedian, mother, and “accidental activist” became an outspoken advocate for maternal mental health after her own postpartum depression diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization. Spicer has since engaged in advocacy efforts in California and is now leading a nationwide initiative for legislation on Capitol Hill.
Using comedy and personal experience, Angelina is sparking conversations across the country about maternal mental health and the need for affordable, accessible care for all moms. Spicer is traveling on a #PostpartumRevolution Tour, a mission to educate the public about postpartum depression and advocate for substantive support. While in each city, Angelina is meeting with legislators, local leaders, healthcare professionals, and women who want to share their stories, filming along the way for her upcoming documentary, The Push for Permission.
On Tuesday July 13th, Angelina Spicer visited Delaware, hosted by Jewish Family Services of Delaware (JFS), for a day of awareness, advocacy, connection, and—of course—comedy.
The morning began with an intimate breakfast reception for JFS’ partners and most avid supporters to witness and celebrate the announcement of the Sonia Schorr Sloan Maternal Mental Health Program, learn about the need for such services in Delaware, and pledge their support to JFS’ newest initiative. The day swiftly continued with advocacy and partnership meetings including Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester and Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long.
“Maternal mental health throughout the country is a crisis,” affirmed Blunt Rochester. “That’s why I’ve been proud to work in Congress to make sure mothers have the resources they need, both during pregnancy and after birth . . . It was a pleasure to join Angelina Spicer and JFS Delaware to highlight the important work they do throughout the state and talk about ways we can improve maternal mental health outcomes in Delaware.”
Angelina also had an opportunity to meet licensed professionals from Nemours Children’s Health System and ChristianaCare’s Center for Women’s Emotional Wellness, who are JFS’ primary partners in identifying and addressing maternal mental health needs in Delaware.
JFS also introduced Angelina to the impassioned leaders of Black Mothers in Power—a group dedicated to eradicating racial health disparities for Black birthing people and Black babies in Delaware— and facilitated meaningful conversations with moms from our own community who have personally experienced postpartum or perinatal challenges.
The second half of the day brought Angelina and her crew to the Riverside community, specifically the state-of-the-art Teen Warehouse, where she met with leaders of The WRK Group (The Warehouse, REACH Riverside, and Kingswood Community Center); together they discussed the importance of healthcare accessibility to marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented communities.
“Mental Health is a key value of The WRK Group and something we intentionally incorporate into all our service offerings,” shared CEO, Logan Herring. “We are grateful to Angelina for bringing this conversation around postpartum mental health to the Riverside community and including many of Wilmington’s female leaders in the dialogue. The WRK Group is excited to continue its partnership with JFS and creating a better, safer, and kinder Wilmington for everyone.”
While the day ended on an inspiring note—discussing the work already being done with local healthcare professionals, therapists, birth workers, doulas, and activists—the fact remains, in Delaware, there are fewer than ten licensed providers who accept most insurances and possess the specific advanced training to address postpartum mental health concerns. This means there is just one trained, insurance-approved, licensed therapist for every 1,500 Delaware moms, not including women who have suffered perinatal loss.
To help remedy this situation, JFS Delaware will work with ChristianaCare’s Center for Women’s Emotional Wellness and Nemours Children’s Health System to establish a foundational cohort of licensed professionals to be trained by Postpartum Support International (PSI) and subsequently identify, screen, and treat mothers in need. JFS will also work closely with the PSI-Delaware Chapter to support women’s health professionals, Delaware hospitals and clinics, pediatricians, doulas, area experts, and organizations seeking referral sources and educational resources.
All women—regardless of background, income, or health insurance status—should have equal access to and receive the life-changing benefit of peri-and post-natal treatment and JFS Delaware is determined to be part of the solution to the maternal mental health needs of women and families in the state. The Sonia Schorr Sloan Maternal Mental Health Program is designed to foster the safety and well-being of pregnant and postpartum women through specialized maternal behavioral health care; the program will accept nearly all insurances, as well as serve those who are unable to pay.
“Sonia was a Delaware icon and passionate activist for women’s rights,” shared Regina Kerr Alonzo, JFS Past Board Chair and mentee of Sonia’s. “I know she would be thrilled that so many changemakers in our state came together to talk about maternal mental health and making Delaware a healthier place for all families.”
Such support and education will help ensure women gain and strengthen the skills to move forward and recover, access the resources they need to care for themselves and their families, and empower them to address their mental health struggles to reach their full potential.
“The #PostpartumRevolution’s mission is to normalize the way we talk, treat, and even joke about postpartum depression,” Spicer announced on social media. “We’re making noise, we have an agenda…we’re removing the stigma.”
The Sonia Schorr Sloan Maternal Mental Health Program
The Sonia Schorr Sloan Maternal Mental Health Program is a community-based, outpatient, maternal mental health program designed to provide effective, evidence-based psychotherapy for women experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). Women of every culture, age, income level, and race can develop PMADs, which are more severe than the typical “baby blues.”
- 20% of pregnant and new moms experience PMADs
- 38% of Black, Hispanic, and Asian American women have PMADs, exacerbated by the stresses of poverty and systemic racism in health care settings
- 75% of all women who have PMADs do not get treatment
- Suicide and overdose are the leading causes of death for women in the first year, postpartum
PMADs can be treated with evidence-based psychotherapy, medication, or both. However, this level of care is often limited to well-resourced women who can pay for expensive, private, behavioral healthcare services. As a result, women with PMADs typically remain undiagnosed and untreated, suffering for weeks, months, and even years. In the most severe cases, lack of treatment is devastating for not only the mother but her family as well.
With support from JFS, women will be empowered to:
- Learn coping skills to manage their anxiety and stress
- Learn how to accept loss and handle depression
- Recognize and respond to harmful or suicidal urges
- Realize they are not alone on their journey to recovery
JFS Delaware is honored this program, empowering and supporting women, will carry Sonia Schorr Sloan’s name and legacy. Sonia Schorr Sloan was an iconic Delawarean who passed away in 2019. She was a civil rights activist, Democratic party strategist, and non-profit fundraiser; she was a fierce advocate for juvenile justice, women’s rights, and other causes.