Peer Support for Postpartum Depresssion

Clinicians who treat postpartum depression and women who seek their help all agree that support groups are a valuable resource in the recovery process. Some debate exists whether peer-led support groups are sufficient as a single intervention or whether it is most effective in conjunction with supportive psychotherapy, but everyone agrees there is no better way to validate a woman’s experience than for her to hear it from someone else who is also experiencing it.

With the recent legislative mandates and the focus on the development and management of PPD support groups, it’s a topic with current relevance. The Boston Globe reports on the value of peer led support groups (the article refers to patients with bipolar illness, schizophrenia depression and other mental illnesses) and discusses a new job classification in Massachusetts — a certified peer specialist:

“Such comradely aid has long been exchanged informally, or scattershot at mental health venues. But now the state has launched a new job category — certified peer specialist — meant to formalize these relationships and gradually, they hope, get peer counseling reimbursed routinely by insurers and Medicaid.
“There’s something about receiving support from someone who’s gone through exactly what you’re going through now that people find invaluable,” said Michael O’Neill, the state’s assistant commissioner for mental health services.”

I love this idea for PPD. It’s already happening on some (often) undisclosed level. Many clinicians who are passionate about treating PPD have in fact, experienced it themselves. They may or may not reveal this information in the treatment process (that’s another whole topic!). Likewise, many women who experience PPD become so passionate about their own recovery that they pursue further education so they can treat PPD and use what they have learned to help ease the suffering of others.

This article reinforces what we already know is true in our community of PPD advocates: peer support is significantly valued, it should be encouraged and it should be standardized in some way so can ensure that women are being supported in the best possible ways.

“The growth of the peer specialist profession comes against the backdrop of a sweeping national shift toward greater optimism that those in dire condition may improve or recover, and toward giving people with mental illness more control over the help they get. People with mental illness are not passive patients, the thinking goes; they can help themselves and as they get better, they can help others.”

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