Mother’s (Mental Health) Day

Photo (c) Ivan Jekic
Photo (c) Ivan Jekic

What does Mother’s Day mean? For many families it signifies roses, brunch, breakfast in bed, gifts, cards and phone calls to moms and grandmothers to say “thank you for caring for us each and every day.”

Any mother will tell you, though, that the very most important Mother’s Day present is the acknowledgement that Mom, the caregiver, needs care and support, too. Emotional, mental, and physical health is the gift toward which we all strive. Mom is no exception.

Scott Hirose, Ph.D., senior psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian says the recognition is important to help sustain mothers to do their jobs, day in and out. “It’s nice to have a day where everyone in the family is asked to think about how their mothers have been there for them,” says Hirose. “It is such a complex job and it really never lets up.”

It’s fitting that Mother’s Day falls during National Mental Health Awareness Month and National Maternal Depression Awareness Month. Nearly 44 million adults (one in five people) in America experience a mental illness.  Mood disorders are twice as prevalent in women compared with men, particularly during the childbearing years.

Being a parent can be challenging, even when Mom is not dealing with specific mental health issues. “In addition to all of the joys and rewards that come with parenting, there are also a significant number of stressors,” says Colleen Cullen, Psy.D., also a Senior Psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Cullen noted that it is important for mothers to prioritize their own well-being, in addition to that of their children. This may take the form of self-care activities, like taking time to exercise, socialize with friends and loved ones or just spend a few quiet minutes alone.  “For mothers who are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns, it may be helpful for them to seek treatment,” says Dr. Cullen.  “By taking care of themselves, mothers set a healthy example for their children and are also better able to manage the everyday challenges that come along with parenting in an effective manner.”

Here are four steps for improving mental health:   

  1. Get support:  Help can come from many people and places–your social network, your family, your physician, or a trained professional such as a social worker, a psychologist, or a social worker.
  2. Know that you are not alone:  As First Lady Michelle Obama recently said, “It’s time to tell everyone dealing with a mental health issue that they are not alone, and that getting support isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”  The Importance and the Opportunity.
  3. Manage stress: Everyone experiences stress. But sometimes stress becomes more than we feel we can manage.  The National Institute of Mental Health has these tips for handling stress in your life. If you feel you can’t manage on your own, repeat steps one and two!
  4. Be kind to yourself:  This really falls under managing stress, but we can’t stress enough the importance of being nice to yourself and mom on all days–not just Mother’s Day.  Take a mental health day (or minute) now and then. Breath, relax, rejuvenate.