By Millie Pagett
We would like to share our experience in National Coalition for Mental Health held in Washington D.C. on May 17 and 18, 2017.
We were honored to be invited by the coalition chair, Joy Burkhard, to share our personal story at a luncheon held at Art Club of Washington on May 17. Over 90 advocates from all over United States were the attendees. They were parents like us, husbands, mothers, survivors, clinicians, and practitioners who came to take part in this coalition. It was a pleasure to meet Jamie Zahlaway Belsito, Joy Burkhard and Maureen Fura from the National Coalition.
At the luncheon, May 17th we shared the loss of my daughter Charlene and grandson Shane who passed away on September 13, 2017 after Charlene suffered Postpartum Psychosis. Reliving our painful tragedy was hard, but our story has to be told. We lost a daughter and a grandson as a result of Maternal Mental Illness, which is the number one complication of Childbearing. Postpartum Depression is a disease and should be treated as seriously as any other medical diagnosis. By telling our story, we wanted everyone to know that Postpartum Depression is real, and could happen to any mother who just had a baby. We are the voice to help promote more awareness, more screening, and early intervention. We strongly feel that there should be more funding, more clinics, and more grants to help these mothers.
The focus on May 18, was on Congressional meetings to ask State Congressional members to support and allocate the monies earmarked in the 21st Century Cures Act for Maternal Mental Depression. It was time to educate them on what we are doing in our State and how to see the issue of Maternal Mental Health education, support, screening and treatment.
The preparation meeting was held at Rayburn House. Jamie Zahlaway Belsito did a wonderful job preparing us on our presentation, how to get the message across and telling them how they can support us. We had packets nicely put together for our presentation.
Our California Group Leader was Joy Burkhard, chair of the National Coalition and director of 2020 Mom. Joining us were a therapist from Victorville, survivor mom from Walnut Creek, and an infant feeding occupational therapist from Sherman Oaks.
We met with representatives of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Kamala Harris, Congressman Steve Knight, Congressman Paul Cook, Congressman Mark De Saulnier and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who we met in person.
We wouldn't have asked for a better team from California! Overall, it was an amazing experience. Never in a million years did we think we would fight for what we think need major changes. It was a great day for everyone to come together with a goal in mind, to help in the improvement of mental health care. We met so many wonderful people who were passionate about making a difference. It was a blessing and very grateful for the opportunity.
We felt encouraged and supported in one of the most difficult thing that we had ever done in our lives, to tell our own personal story of lost and to be the voice to make a change. We put on a fight and together we know we will make an impact in the future of Maternal Mental Health.
No one should suffer like my daughter Charlene did.💜
Thank you for the opportunity to share our story and be part of this coalition.