GLEN OAKS, NY – Entering Zucker Hillside’s (ZHH) Behavioral Health Pavilion to a burst of enthusiastic applause, New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray helped cut the ribbon of a new, 20-bed, single-gender inpatient unit dedicated to easing the burden of maternal depression.
The highly-anticipated unit is the first of its kind in New York State, and only the third in the United States. The others are University of North Carolina in North Carolina and Long Beach Community Hospital in California.
Ms. McCray emphasized the importance of a unit devoted to meeting the needs of women struggling with issues relating to pregnancy and motherhood.
“At any given moment, one in five adult New Yorkers is dealing with a mental health condition. And pregnant women and new moms are not immune---in fact, they are uniquely vulnerable,” she said
“Studies suggest that at least one out of every ten pregnant women and new mothers suffers from post-partum depression. Here in New York City, that means 12,000 to 15,000 cases each year.”
To address these issues, each member of this unit’s staff has been specially trained in the management of a perinatal psychiatric patient.
“Each member of this unit’s staff has been specially trained in the management of a perinatal psychiatric patient,” said Pauline Walfisch, LCSW, director of perinatal psychiatry at Zucker Hillside and chair of the Nassau County Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Task Force.
After thanking Ms. McCray for being so instrumental in launching New York City’s ThriveNYC (nyc.gov/thrivenyc) program, which is an action plan for addressing the delivery of mental health services that specifically calls for screening all pregnant women and new mothers for postpartum depression within two years, Ms. Walfisch said, “Today we are bringing maternal depression out of the shadows.”
Also on hand to celebrate the unit’s opening was Tamara Oliver, a mother of triplets who had been treated for postpartum depression as an outpatient at ZHH six years ago.
Ms. Oliver said she was especially proud to be a part of the day’s program because of her desire to support other women who might be undergoing the same sadness during what is supposed to be a most joyous time.
“I think back to what my husband said during that time. He said, ‘You’re doin’ it, but you’re not diggin’ it.’ And that’s exactly the way it was.”
After working with her physician, Ms. Oliver came to understand that her feelings were valid. That’s exactly the point she wants to share with other women suffering from these disorders.
“I would like to tell the women out there, ‘It’s Ok. You’re Ok. And, you’re not alone.”
Expressing the spirit of the day, Ms. McCray told doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists (many of whom brought their babies along for support), “Thanks to all of you, our mothers have more support than ever, and we are on step closer to having a real mental health system---one that is as expansive and inclusive as the city itself.”