Dr. Luz Towns Miranda on Fighting Mental Health Stigma for Mothers
Every time you ‘like’ and share this post, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per social action), up to $500,000, via the Global Moms Relay to help improve the health and well-being of families worldwide in support of Shot@Life, UNFPA, Girl Up, UNICEF USA and Nothing But Nets.
By Luz Towns Miranda, PhD
All new mothers need support. We used to live in tribes, but now many new moms are expected to figure motherhood alone, far from family or friends - and are forced to rely on the infinite “wisdom” of the internet, which can be, at best daunting, but at worst, dangerous. But it isn’t just about help with laundry (though that’s nice!)
Above: Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda and her son, Lin-Manuel Miranda
As the context has changed, and there is less and less support for mothers, we have created higher expectations for what a new mother should look like, feel like, and what they should need from others. Basically, we expect them to experience the “joy” and “ease” of celebrity childbirth - without all the help. But since Brooke Shields courageously came out about her experiences, I am thankful we are seeing more and more public figures speaking out about the lows, as well as highs.
Maternal health and mental healthcare are essential for mom AND baby. It’s the classic chicken or egg scenario: A mom with a community (partner, family, friends, medical) that supports her mental health will be able to create an environment for a baby to feel secure and happy. A secure and healthy baby often gives mom confidence and security of her own.
Studies have confirmed what we all knew for decades: Depressed, anxious mothers have depressed, anxious infants who then have less than optimal emotional health that hampers optimal development cognitively and emotionally. Infants learn about themselves from the facial interactions with their mother, a phenomenon called mirroring. It becomes hard to undo the impact of a mother’s depression on her infant, and it puts the infant at a severe disadvantage the longer it goes untreated.
In our family, we think of mental health like any other part of our body. You have knee pain? See an orthopedic surgeon. You have stomach issues? See a gastroenterologist. Experiencing stress or anxiety? See a mental health professional. For us, this is technical assistance, cut and dry. There is no shame or stigma - why should there be? We have all gone for “technical assistance” at some point and we are stronger for it, but not everyone has the access that we have.
I wish that every family had access to regular prenatal and postnatal mental health services - and not just when they are in crisis. Let’s catch the issue early on, before we put babies at risk.
Above: Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda and her children, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Luz Miranda-Crespo
Above: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s graduation from Wesleyan University with sister Luz Miranda-Crespo, and parents, Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda and Luis A. Miranda, Jr.
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