May, 2018

One in Seven…

Posted in In the News on May 29th, 2018 with No Comments

Resources and Tools for Pregnant and Postpartum Women

According to the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program (MCAP), approximately one out of every seven women experience depression during pregnancy or in the first year postpartum. Depression during this time is twice as common as gestational diabetes.  MCPAP for Moms provides real-time, perinatal psychiatric consultation and resource and referral for obstetric, pediatric, primary care and psychiatric providers to effectively prevent, identify, and manage their pregnant and postpartum patients’ mental health and substance use concerns. During Mental Health Awareness Month, we are especially grateful to our friends at MCAP for compiling and sharing the following resources….

Postpartum Support International (PSI)
Information for mothers, family and professionals. Includes lists of support groupsin Massachusetts and surrounding areas,  as well as therapists and other providers who specialize in postpartum mental health.

PSI Live Chats with an Expert
Wednesday Chats for Women
Chat number: 1-800-944-8766, Participant code 33702
Please see www.postpartum.net for schedule updates.

PSI of Massachusetts Warm Line
Confidential information, support and listings of local resources. Women and families can leave a message and a trained volunteer, often a professional and/or someone with lived experience, will return the call within 24 hours.
866-472-1897 or psiofmass@gmail.com

The Journey Recovery Project
A patient oriented resource that serves as a guide through recovery, pregnancy and early parenting.

Postpartum Depression (PPD) Moms Hotline
Available support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for mother and their family and/or friends. Offers support, information and referrals.
(800) PPDMOMS or (800) 773-6667

PPD Support Group on Twitter (#ppdchat)
#PPDChat is held every Monday @Twitter. An account is required for participation. Registration at Twitter is free and easy. Use the hashtag #PPDChat to join the conversation.

Action on Postpartum Psychosis
APP is a network of over 600 women who have experienced postpartum psychosis and experts focused on this field of study. APP provides information about the latest in research and services for postpartum psychosis, while also hosting a forum for women to share their experiences and stories.

MotherWoman
MotherWoman supports and empowers mothers to create personal and social change by building community safety nets, impacting family policy and promoting the leadership and resilience of mothers.

MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health
The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health is a perinatal and reproductive psychiatry information center. The website provides a range of current information including discussion of new research findings in women’s mental health and how such investigations inform day-to day clinical practice.

Mother to Baby
This is a non-profiit program that offers evidence-based information to mothers, health care professionals, and the general public about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Website
The DPH webpage dedicated to postpartum depression.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Stories on Postpartum Depression
Digital stories on parenting and postpartum depression.

Postpartum Progress
Provides educational material and resources on postpartum depression.

Moving Beyond Depression
A systemic program of In-Home Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (IH-CBT) developed by researchers at Every Child Succeeds and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. It is the only evidence-based treatment program specifically for mothers in home visiting programs and it has a proven record of success.

La Leche League of Massachusetts, Rhode Island & Vermont
An organization dedicated to providing information and support to pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents
This article discusses the prevalence and experience of adoptive parents with postpartum depression.

Keep ’em cookin’
An educational organization that gives pregnant women the greatest opportunity to prevent preterm birth by providing current information on high-risk pregnancy and offering an online bed rest support group.

Motherisk
A clinical research and teaching program at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that provides information and guidance to pregnant or lactating women and to health care professionals.

National Child & Maternal Health Education Program (NCMHEP)
The National Institutes Child Health and Human Development created the NCMHEP to provide a forum for reviewing, translating, and disseminating new research in the fied of maternal and child health. This website includes information for moms, moms-to-be, partners, friends, and family, as well as the action plan for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after birth.


General Mental Health Services and Resources for Fathers…

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts
Information and resources as well as a listing of local Mass NAMI chapters.

William James College Interface Referral Service
A Massachusetts mental health/therapist referral service.
617-332-3666 x 1411

Find a Therapist in the USA or Canada
A website dedicated to helping individuals find a therapist in the USA or Canada.

Postpartum Support International (PSI)- Fathers
Contains videos, blog posts, and articles exploring the experiences of fathers experiencing postpartum depression themselves or in their partners.

Postpartum Support International Live Chats with an Expert
First Monday Chats for men and dads
Chat number: 1-800-944-8766
Participant code 33702
Please see www.postpartum.net for schedule updates.

Postpartum Dads
A website dedicated to helping families overcome PPD.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Stories on Postpartum Depression
Digital stories on the experiences of fathers

Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’ Counseling Center, licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, helps individuals and families achieve emotional wellness through professional mental health treatment.  Individuals, couples, families, and children struggling with depression, anxiety, grief and other mental health disorders receive caring and competent treatment through mental health counseling, psychiatric consultation, and support groups.  In addition, Family Services provides clinical support to local schools and daycare center to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents.The counseling staff is composed of a psychiatrist, psychologists, and master’s level social workers and mental health professionals. The Family Services staff can help you and your family with issues such as:

  • Alcohol and other substances
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Relationship problems
  • Stress
  • Separation and divorce
  • Loss
  • Difficulties at work/school


Above image courtesy of National Public Radio.

 

Blow Bubbles, and Breathe…

Posted in In the News, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on May 8th, 2018 with 2 Comments

May is Mental Health Awareness Month… Shift Your Mood With These Simple Practices

When we talk about health, the scope of those conversations should not be limited to focus on heart health, or liver health, or brain health.  Our friends at Mental Health America (MHA) counsel that we should instead see the whole person, and “make use of the tools and resources that benefit minds and bodies together.”  Since 1949, MHA and their affiliates across the country, including Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, have been seizing the dialogue during the month of May by observing Mental Health Month during those thirty-one days of the calendar.  With a theme in 2018 of Fitness #4Mind4Body, the focus is on what we as individuals can do to be fit for our own futures – no matter where we happen to be on our own personal journeys to health and wellness.

Much of MHA’s work continues to be guided by the Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy – that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. This approach encourages us to pause and consider the way that we think about diseases like cancer or heart disease.  We don’t wait years to treat them. We start before Stage 4— beginning with prevention, identifying symptoms, and developing a plan of action to reverse and hopefully stop the progression of the disease. Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) questions why don’t we do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness? It also champions the need to address these symptoms early, identify the underlying disease, and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health.

In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month and in concert with MHA’s Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy, Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Clinical Director, Holly Hammershoy, shares the following accessible tips for taking the wheel of our own emotional wellness.

Mood Shifters… 

Are you having a rough day? Traffic, work issues, a to-do list that is overwhelming? Take a few moments to shift your mood – choose one of these six activities, and see how your energy and outlook changes:

You can even make this a game… Write the “shifters” down on slips of paper and draw them at random; this can also be fun to do with your kids.  Get everyone in on the fun and positive energy!

Be silly – make a funny face, wiggle your backside, blow raspberries; it’s hard to be serious when you’re being silly – or when someone is being silly with you.

Move – that exercise is crucial for physical and emotional health is well-documented;  moving shifts your mood quickly, even when it’s just short bursts of movement like marching in place for one minute or dancing around your office (and you might applause from your co-workers for your sweet moves!).

Blow bubbles – do you remember blowing bubbles as a kid? That feeling of anticipation as you blew a bigger and bigger bubble, then the fun of trying to catch the bubble before it popped. Watching bubbles float through the air can bring back those feelings and divert your attention from grown-up concerns for a few minutes.

Breathe – most of us breathe too shallowly, starving us of oxygen that can help our mood and attention. Sit (or stand) upright and breathe slowly and deeply (you should feel your stomach expand) for a count of three, then out again for a count of three. You may feel dizzy at first, but the more you breathe like this, the better you’ll feel.

Think about something (or someone) that makes you happy – kids, pets, a vacation memory (or a dream vacation), the memory of a fun night with loved ones – remembering the people and things that bring us joy can shift our energy quickly. Take a moment and think about the people and things that bring you joy.

Stretch – much like the benefits of proper breathing, gentle stretching can release tension and bring much-needed oxygen to tight, stressed muscles – both of which shifts your emotional mood.

Taking a few minutes to shift your attitude and mood can take your day in a positive direction. Have fun figuring out which shifters work best for you!

Thank you to Family Service’s Clinical Director Holly Hammershoy for the above contribution.  Family Services’ Counseling Center, licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, helps individuals and families achieve emotional wellness through professional mental health treatment.  Individuals, couples, families, and children struggling with depression, anxiety, grief and other mental health disorders receive caring and competent treatment through mental health counseling, psychiatric consultation, and support groups.  In addition, Family Services provides clinical support to local schools and daycare center to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents.The counseling staff is composed of a psychiatrist, psychologists, and master’s level social workers and mental health professionals. The Family Services staff can help you and your family with issues such as:

  • Alcohol and other substances
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Relationship problems
  • Stress
  • Separation and divorce
  • Loss
  • Difficulties at work/school

Father Friendly…

Posted in Fatherhood on May 4th, 2018 with No Comments

“We want kids to be around their dads.”

“Children have better outcomes when dads are involved,” contends John O’Neil, Director of the Nurturing Father’s Program, whom Family Services recently welcomed to our offices as part of our ongoing Fathers and Family Network series.  The free programming offered through the network is tailored especially for local parenting providers and is intended to serve as an ongoing resource as they provide vital services to families throughout the Merrimack Valley.  “The work we are doing is really nation building,” suggested O’Neil.  “When we strengthen fathers, we strengthen families.”  The Boston-based Nurturing Fathers’ Program which O’Neil directs brings together men from all family circumstances (custodial, non-custodial, step-fathers, new fathers) who need help with understanding how to be nurturing and supportive, while also maintaining their authority and providing consistent guidance and structure.

While sharing some best practices for making social service agencies more “father friendly”, Mr. O’Neil (pictured above with Family Services’ Family Programs Director Besty Green) leaned heavily on his three decade career working with fathers in and around the Greater Boston area.  He also called upon his own personal story of; growing up in a housing project, losing his mother at a young age and acting out as a result of an unsettled home and family life.  Throughout his presenation, Mr. O’Neil employed an equal measure of both experiences to engage and rally the group on hand.  “The work we are doing is ALL of us.  We are all in the room today because we want to help people.  We want kids to be around their dads.”  Stressing the need to offer concrete support to fathers he noted that men are often reluctant to seek out such help for the following reasons…

  • They don’t want to appear weak
  • They experience some level of shame about their situation
  • They are dealing with trauma of some sort
  • They don’t want accountability

The facts indicate that one of the persistent obstacles in reaching dads with the essential parenting support needed is their limited time.  So, the primary message for providers often becomes one of emphasizing that importance of work/family balance.  “Men suffer silently.  We weren’t groomed to show our weaknesses,” shared O’Neil.  “What happens with these programs that nurture fathers is we create a safe environment where they can reassess their roles as men and parents.  That’s a relief for many men.  And, that’s when they begin to open up.”  The professionals gathered in the room then went on to explore some strategies for making social service agencies more “father friendly”, one of which included recruiting more male program facilitators.  Some suggestions offered (by the Center for the Study of Social Policy) for agencies’ enhanced engagement with fathers include…

  • Offer a local Fathers Program or a Men’s Circle
  • Team up with local HeadStart Programs or other child care providers to recruit dads for your programs
  • Connect to a local school to host a Father & Family Fun Day
  • Host a Father & Child Playgroup or other events where dads can gather and meet other fathers

“This job we  do, it’s really about inspiring people to live their BEST life.  You give them hope.  You give them a plan.  And, you’ll be amazed at what they can do,” counseled O’Neil in conclusion. And with that, the Fathers and Family Network meeting adjourned… and a room full of newly empowered providers were off to spread the inspiration.

Family Services parenting programs recognize that caring for family members is a challenge.  In our Parenting Programs department, trained and experienced professionals help parents, children and relatives gain the knowledge and skills they need to care for one another, and create a stronger, healthier family unit through a variety of services.  To join us for an upcoming Fathers and Family Network meeting or to learn more about Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Parenting programs, please visit… 

 

Being Well… Fitness #4Mind4Body

Posted in In the News on May 4th, 2018 with No Comments

May is Mental Health Awareness Month…

Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable. So much of what we do physically impacts us mentally –it’s important to pay attention to both your physical health and your mental health, which can help you achieve overall wellness and set you on a path to recovery.  This May is Mental Health Month, and Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is seizing the occasion to help raise awareness about the connection between physical health and mental health, through the theme Fitness #4Mind4Body.

The Fitness #4Mind4Body campaign is meant to educate and inform individuals about how eating healthy foods, gut health, managing stress, exercising, and getting enough sleep can go a long way in making you healthy all around.  A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the onset or worsening of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, as well as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other chronic health problems. It can also play a big role in helping people recover from these conditions. Taking good care of your body is part of a before Stage Four approach to mental health.

Getting the appropriate amount of exercise can help control weight, improve mental health, and help you live longer and healthier. Recent research is also connecting your nutrition and gut health with your mental health.  Sleep also plays a critical role in all aspects of our life and overall health. Getting a good night’s sleep is important to having enough physical and mental energy to take on daily responsibilities. And we all know that stress can have a huge impact on all aspects of our health, so it’s important to take time to focus on stress-reducing activities like meditation or yoga.

Family Services’ Counseling Center, licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, helps individuals and families achieve emotional wellness through professional mental health treatment.  Individuals, couples, families, and children struggling with depression, anxiety, grief and other mental health disorders receive caring and competent treatment through mental health counseling, psychiatric consultation, and support groups.  In addition, Family Services provides clinical support to local schools and daycare center to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents.The counseling staff is composed of a psychiatrist, psychologists, and master’s level social workers and mental health professionals. The Family Services of the Merrimack Valley staff can help you and your family with issues such as:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Alcohol and other substances
  • Relationship problems
  • Stress
  • Separation and divorce
  • Loss
  • Difficulties at work/school

Family Services of the Merrimack Valley  wants everyone to know that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is always the goal. Living a healthy lifestyle may not be easy, but by looking at your overall health every day – both physically and mentally – you can go a long way in ensuring that you focus on your Fitness #4Mind4Body.  For more information, please visit Mental Health America, or Family Services Counseling Center.

 

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You…

Posted in Mentoring on May 3rd, 2018 with No Comments

Women’s Fund of Essex County Awards Family Services $20,000 Grant

The Women’s Fund of Essex County, a field of interest fund of the Essex County Community Foundation, last week awarded Family Services of the Merrimack Valley a three-year grant in the total amount of $20,000. The grant money will be used to support our Stand & Deliver academic mentoring program. In sharing the news of the generous gift, Susan Robie, Chair of the Grants Allocation Committee and Essex County Community Foundation Program Officer, Hehershe Busuego, noted that the The Women’s Fund Advisory Board and the Trustees of the ECCF were in “unanimous agreement” in funding this high impact program.

The Women’s Fund was established in February of 2003 for the purpose of raising and distributing funds in order to provide opportunities and promote solutions for women and girls in Essex County.  In doing so, they especially pinpoint programs with proven track records, clear objectives and established budgets. Upon awarding funds, their relationship with the grantee agency continues as the Fund evaluates and monitors each program’s success through required written interim and final reports from agencies.

“We’re proud to partner with The Women’s Fund of Essex County to affect positive change in the lives of women and girls who need it most.  This grant from the Essex County Women’s Fund will be used specifically to support female students who are matched with adult women working in the field of STEM,” shared Family Services of the Merrimack Valley Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Sweeney.  “Research has shown that mentoring is one of the most effective ways to impact a young person’s education and career, and we are pleased to be able to connect aspiring young with accomplished female role models.  As past recipients, we recognize that the Women’s Fund takes their grant allocation and grantee selection process very seriously, and we are most grateful to have such a strong partner supporting our work in the Greater Lawrence community.”

Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) was founded in 1999 to achieve two goals in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector of Essex County: to educate nonprofit leaders in sound business practice, and to connect those leaders with local funding to support their work. Today, Essex County Community Foundation promotes philanthropy in Essex County by managing charitable funds for donors, providing grants and services to nonprofit organizations, and engaging in community leadership initiatives.  With a goal to improve the quality of life in the 34 towns and cities of Essex County, each year the ECCF awards over $4 million grants each year to support the programs and operations of nonprofit organizations in Essex County and beyond.  This week marks the ECCF’s Annual Celebration of Giving Breakfast at the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers.  Now in its fifth year, the popular event honors people and organizations for thinking collaboratively and doing vital work in Essex County.

Launched in 2010, Family Services’ Stand & Deliver program provides weekly, site-based academic mentoring with the primary goals of helping 115 Lawrence middle and high school students (like Keiddy, pictured above) improve their school performance and the likelihood that they will graduate from high school and attend college or other post-secondary education. Stand & Deliver matches students from four Lawrence public schools in one-to-one mentoring relationships with adult role models at five corporate partners: New Balance, Pfizer, Schneider Electric, Raytheon and Charles River Labs.  Students visit their mentor one day per week from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. (Monday – Thursday) from October through May. The primary focus of the mentors’ work with students is to improve school achievement, specifically in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Mentors cultivate aptitudes in these areas while introducing students to careers.  To learn more about Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Stand & Deliver program, please visit…