For Mental Health Awareness Month and Women's Health Week, I have asked Mental Health Advocate Jennifer Moyer a few questions to help us learn about mental health and get involved with mental health issues.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you want to help others as a mental health advocate.My name is Jennifer Moyer. I am first and foremost a wife and mother. I strive to give hope and inspiration to individuals and families that are facing mental health issues. I have volunteered in the area of mental health issues related to childbearing since 2000. I began as a Volunteer Coordinator with Postpartum Support International (www.postpartum.net). As a Coordinator, I provided emotional, practical and informational support to women and families dealing with mental health issues related to childbearing. Although I am no longer an active Coordinator with Postpartum Support International, I continue to be a member and promote the awareness, prevention and treatment of mental illness related to childbearing, as well as mental health, in general. I do this as a writer, speaker and advocate for mental health. I want others to know that they are not alone, they are not to blame and things can get better with proper care and treatment. Having a mental health advocate, whether that is a family member, loved one or someone else, to help provide information and let individuals know that it is their right to have proper care and treatment, can make a big difference in achieving and maintaining recovery.
2. Why is Mental Health Month important?Mental Health Month is important because, during the month of May, communities all over the United States are helping to educate Americans about mental illness and mental health. Mental health is important because it affects every aspect of our life. Without a healthy, balanced and positive attitude towards life, many areas of one’s life suffer. It can affect everything from physical health to self-image. Many people suffer from mental illness, which can be very debilitating. Helping others to understand and identify mental illness as well as to educate others about mental illness is very important. Every month should be mental health month but the month of May has been designated with the advocacy efforts of Mental Health America (www.mentalhealthamerica.net) as the month for extra focus on educating others about mental illness and mental health.
3. How can people get involved in helping the mentally ill or with women’s mental health?The best way for individuals to get involved is to educate themselves about mental illness. Education is so important because it helps increase awareness, helps individuals to seek treatment and helps in eliminating stigma. If a person wants to become more involved, I encourage him or her to contact a local mental health association to see how best to get involved. Mental Health America has affiliates throughout the United States. There are other associations such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Other great resources for information are the National Institute of Mental Health and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. Getting involved, even in a small way, makes a difference in the life of someone with a mental illness.
4. What is the reason for having Women’s Health Awareness Week?The 13th annual National Women’s Health Week kicks off on Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012 and is celebrated until May 19, 2012. National Women’s Checkup Day was Monday, May 14, 2012. The importance of women’s health awareness week is that women often put their needs aside to serve as caregivers for their families. As a result, women’s health and well-being can become secondary. National Women’s Health Week encourages women to make their health a top priority. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, as a community, we should support the important women we know and do everything we can to help them take steps for longer, healthier, and happier lives.
5. What do you feel are the most important issues that America needs to address in mental health?I believe we need to provide education about mental illnesses and the importance of caring for our mental health. Education helps eliminate stigma, which I believe to be a big issue that America needs to address. Education brings understanding and helps eliminate stigma especially if we begin providing education at a young age. In my opinion, another important issue is access to care and treatment. There are still many individuals that have mental illness yet they are not able to receive treatment and preventative care. The health care system, particularly in the area of mental health, needs to become proactive and strive to encourage prevention and wellness. Often the focus is on just treating symptoms.
6. You specialize in postpartum mental illness. What percentage of women experience it and what are some signs of it?Mental illness related to childbearing has a spectrum of disorders but the one most talked about is postpartum depression. Postpartum depression occurs in approximately 1 out of 8 women. Symptoms can occur anytime during pregnancy up until 12 months postpartum. Symptoms can vary but the most common ones are
· Feelings of anger or irritability
· Lack of interest in the baby
- Appetite and sleep disturbance
- Crying and sadness
- Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
- Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
7. Is there anything you would like to add? I appreciate the opportunity to increase awareness of mental health issues. Thank you for the interview and for all you do in the area of charity and volunteer promotion. Volunteering changes the lives of everyone involved. If anyone is interested in learning more, please visit my website at www.jennifermoyer.com. You can also subscribe to my blog at www.jennifermoyer.com/blog and visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jenniferhmoyer.No matter what you may be facing, remember you are not alone and things can get better with help.