Cindy Lee Herrick
Cindy is a certified peer support specialist and is a subject matter expert for the Arizona Department of Health Services’ (ADHS) Maternal Mortality Board. She is also on ADHS’s Arizona Maternal Mental Health Task Force, where she chairs the awareness workgroup. Cindy is also a Patient Merit Reviewer for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).
Cindy Lee Herrick is a mom, teacher, musician, researcher, entrepreneur and maternal mental health advocate. She serves as 2020 Mom’s Strategic Partnerships & National Campaigns Lead and also runs the Maternal Suicide Awareness Campaign and the Maternal Mental Health Week Awareness Campaign for 2020 Mom’s The Blue Dot Project. Her own experience with severe maternal mental health disorders sparked her desire to bring change to the maternal mental healthcare system, as well as work towards mainstreaming the discussion about maternal mental health.
Cindy says she had been on medications since her 20’s for depression and anxiety. When her son was born she says, “I wasn’t sleeping, I was a mess, I was depressed, I was anxious, and I had OCD. And, I had gone off of my medications during the first trimester of my pregnancy thinking that that was a good idea, but then it took so many more meds to get me back to someplace healthy after my son was born. I felt like I was on everything under the sun. My husband and I made a conscious decision not to drink during that time because I felt like I couldn't even function with this new human in my life and I couldn't imagine having one more thing to recover from.”
Cindy says her decision not to drink (something she has stuck with to this day) was really a point of survival. “I could not handle one more thing,” she said. “And, drinking didn’t add any value. I already had postpartum OCD and was obsessively checking my son, and I was really worried that I wasn't going to hear him at night if I drank. That decision just stuck with us after a while because we wanted to be the most engaged parents we can with our son and we wanted to focus on our wellness and energy.”
Cindy suggests moms look at the decision to use alcohol from two angles: How does it impact their life and how does it fit into their priorities? “I found that when I looked at the big picture and was feeling overwhelmed, I needed to eliminate anything that was not adding value to my life and was actually detrimental,” Cindy said. “It’s different for everyone but that was pivotal for me and it is what self-care looks like to me. I think in general, we have this idea that pampering ourselves or giving in to our immediate wants is self-care. But really, self-care is about taking care of your physical and mental health, especially as a parent. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re just really making life hard on you.”
Cindy explains that parents don’t get that much time to really just indulge in what their body's telling them. “Your child's needs come first and you'll push yourself even when you're tired,” she said. “ On the flip side, all that means is that you become stretched too thin when you really need to be taking extra good care of yourself.”
According to Cindy, the most valuable model of care for her has been self-advocacy. When she had a postpartum mental health crisis, her psychiatrist wasn’t trained in maternal mental health. “No matter how good the system is,” she added, “If you don’t speak up for yourself you aren’t going to get the care you need.” Since she had her son years ago, Cindy says she has seen positive changes in the intersection of mental health and maternal mental health including more education for new moms and more help connecting them to the resources they need. Plus, 2020 Mom has a partnership with Mental Health America, nationwide, and they are working on a Certified Peer Support project because they recognize how powerful it is for moms to get support from other moms.
“ I am excited to see normalizing the discussion about maternal mental health in popular culture, both from celebrities and from mainstream media,” Cindy said. “ I wish somebody had told me that to be a good mom I couldn’t just be 1000% ‘mom,’ that I needed to take time for myself too.”
Note to Providers:
I believe in looking at the whole person. I think when we are looking at mental health or even when it comes to certain addictions or substance use, we look at one part and we want to deal with that. For mental health, people are often prescribed meds to “help you sleep”, “ help with your depression” – and they’re being prescribed without looking at all the other aspects of that person’s life that are factoring into their issues. I think a lot of times lifestyle changes can actually help patients decrease their need for some medications. Helping patients learn effective self care can help them preempt triggers for things like depression and anxiety. But that doesn't happen in a vacuum. Meds definitely have their place but I think overarchingly self-care is required as well.
2020 Mom is a national nonprofit that focuses on closing gaps in systems and policy in the complex landscape of maternal mental health. They serve as an intersection for providers and patients and work to pinpoint where the gaps are and incubate ideas and research for all stakeholders in order to create monumental change.
The Blue Dot Project is an offshoot of 2020 Mom. It is a place for moms to find solidarity, take off their armor, be vulnerable and talk about the things that they think they can’t discuss elsewhere. The Blue Dot Project is a campaign of solidarity and normalizing all these struggles that are really common.
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