COLUMBUS (WCMH) — May is Maternal Mental Health Month, a time to remember the many women who are struggling with mental illness. 

“We know about 1 in 5 moms will experience a diagnosable mental health issue,” said Associate Director of Mental Health America Franklin County Tonya Fulwider. 

One of the most common is postpartum depression.

“We hear the term ‘postpartum depression,’ but what we really know is that that depression in the sense that people think of depression, as feeling down, not feeling motivated, sleeping all the time… It really doesn’t look like that in pregnancy and postpartum. It looks a lot like anxiety,” said Fulwider.

“Moms are just so caught up in worry, sometimes they have scary thoughts, they can’t quite get rid of all the ‘what ifs. Addressing that appropriately is so important.”

That’s why Fulwider and a group of women founded the POEM program, or Prenatal Outreach and Encouragement for Moms, to get mothers access to the care and support they need.

“Everybody asks to hold the baby, said Fulwider. “Who’s holding the mother?”

POEM connects moms to mentors, healthcare providers, even transportation, and puts postpartum depression and anxiety in the spotlight with events like “Give Mom the Mic.

“This event is a good way to start the conversation, and continue the conversation, to say, ‘Let’s get real. Let’s talk about how hard it is.'”

“There’s this misnomer that, if you say, I’m dealing with a mental illness, somehow I’m not as good of a mom as somebody who doesn’t have that struggle,” Fulwider said. “But good moms, great moms, wonderful moms… Also deal with mental illnesses.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, there are POEM support groups that meet in various locations throughout Ohio. Click here to find a location near you.