From Her Perspective: Renewing Lives & Reducing Stigma

In Community, Jessica Latin by Lola Magazine

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. One in seven new moms may suffer from a perinatal mental illness, such as postpartum depression. Although there has been a decrease in recent years, infant mortality rates are troubling in the state of Louisiana, child abuse and neglect cases have also significantly increased in the state and I can’t help but think that some of these cases could have been prevented by raising awareness and offering resources to those women who were dealing with a perinatal mental illness, which resulted in the demise or removal of their children.

I always had goals of owning my own counseling private practice. As a matter of fact, about five years ago, I made myself a vision board on Pinterest, and starting my own counseling private practice was the last goal on that board. I did not know at the time; however, that one of the hardest experiences in my life would be the launching pad for which my private practice stands on today. In 2017, my husband and I went through a miscarriage at approximately nine weeks. It was devastating yet I was resilient and this inspired me to reach out to other women who have gone through the same thing. I was amazed at what I discovered. Almost every other woman I have had contact with in the last 10 years disclosed to me that they had one or more miscarriages and have dealt with and are still dealing with the traumatic after effects on their body, emotional state, and their relationships.

It helps me to help others. That is why I chose this career path. I always have the burning desire to do more and to go above and beyond. I never want anyone to have to feel alone as many often do. During my healing process, I became the first ambassador in the state of Louisiana for 2020 Mom, a national organization that works to bridge the gap between medical providers and women dealing with perinatal mental disorders, while raising awareness for maternal mental health and improving diagnoses and treatment. I also became a volunteer support coordinator for northern Louisiana for Postpartum Support International (PSI), another national organization that raises awareness and helps provide resources for perinatal mental illness. Immediately following my miscarriage, I became pregnant again. During this pregnancy and after the birth of my daughter, I suffered from perinatal depression and anxiety. Although this has been a whirlwind experience that I would not wish on anyone, I am grateful that I have the personal experience and I am working to gain more knowledge in this area to help other women in my community power through pain.

In 2019, I started JL Counseling LLC, a mental health counseling private practice specializing in domestic violence and maternal mental health. My goal is to be a beacon of light in the community to show other women that it is okay to not be okay, that we are all imperfectly perfect, and that help is here. I have partnered with several local organizations, including a midwife who refer clients to me, in a collaborative effort to raise awareness and potentially save lives. I also want to educate and work closely with medical professionals in the area to ensure that they are screening frequently and providing resources for those with a positive screening. I also want to help medical professionals be more sensitive and mindful in their approach with dealing with perinatal mental illness.

In the last year and a half, I have started a Facebook support group for women dealing with maternal mental health problems. With the help from a local perinatal professional we have revamped the group into Shreveport-Bossier Sisterhood of Support (S.B. S.O.S.) and have started holding meetings locally at Bonne Fete Maternity in Shreveport on the third Tuesday of every month from 12 p.m.- 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

The idea is to have a mentor/sponsorship style peer-led group to help women grow their support systems to help them process and push through their motherhood struggles. Our goal is to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness especially amongst women and mothers. I want to educate mothers on the importance of self-care and putting their needs first so that they can be the best mother they can be for their children. I want to make the topic of maternal mental health less taboo and help others feel comfortable in expressing their likes and dislikes about motherhood in a judgment-free zone. Through group counseling coupled with individual counseling, along with a strong community presence, I hope that we can eventually decrease the number of suicides, infant deaths, child abuse, and neglect cases in our community and increase the number of loving, supported, knowledgeable, emotionally and mentally stable women and mothers to help nurture the future leaders of this world.

GET HELP

If you or anyone you know is suffering from a perinatal mental disorder or if you are unsure and need a screening, please contact JL Counseling LLC at wellness@jlcounselingllc.com to schedule an appointment if you are in the Shreveport/Bossier and surrounding areas.

Visit postpartumsupport.net to find resources and a support coordinator in your area.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and suicide ideation, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 1-800-273-8255