Thank you for your recent editorial highlighting postpartum depression and the importance of paying close attention to this frequently undiagnosed health problem (“Our View: Don’t let new mothers face postpartum depression alone,” Oct. 15).

Having a baby should be a joyful time for new moms and families, but for the 1 in 7 mothers and 1 in 10 new fathers who experience a perinatal mood and/or anxiety disorder, it can be extremely challenging and stressful. Imagine looking at your baby and feeling sad or depressed because you don’t feel a connection to the new life you’ve just brought into the world. You feel like you are out of control and you may even want to hurt yourself, your newborn or your entire family.

As health care providers, we are aware of this problem in our community and hear about it from colleagues in sister institutions, and we see it far too often in our birthing center, in our women’s health practice, and in our primary care offices. We educate our providers to recognize the symptoms, and we are consistently screening for and discussing the issue with expecting and new moms.

It is heartbreaking to see new mothers and fathers suffering — in deep despair and with no place to turn for help. So we decided to take action and create a new service that offers hope. After months of careful planning, our Tree of HOPE Postpartum Support Group opened its doors in Waterville in September 2017.

HOPE is an acronym for Healthy Outlook on Postpartum Experiences, and it is the spirit that our staff brings to every meeting. The program gives people a safe place to voice their anguish, fears and guilt-causing thoughts; to hear others’ stories and learn coping mechanisms; and to receive support and get access to other community resources. Tree of HOPE has become a resource that educates attendees on the facts — that they are not alone, that they are not to blame, and with help, they will get better. Over the last year, 206 people have participated in the support group, coming from all over the state of Maine.

When it started, Northern Light Inland Hospital’s Tree of HOPE was the only support group of its kind in Maine. Today, Tree of HOPE is also offered at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and there are several similar groups offered in southern Maine. We are proud to report that women’s health providers from across Northern Light Health are working on strategies for providing convenient access to perinatal mood and anxiety disorder education, screening, prevention and treatment services in all of our communities. This is all part our commitment to make health care work for every Mainer.

Thank you again for raising awareness about this health problem through your editorial. It has sparked community conversation, and we believe the more we talk about it and make known the available resources, the more we can help support healthy families.

Please encourage anyone you know who may need Tree of HOPE to call for meeting times and dates, or if they just have questions about this support group — 861-6091. Help us make a difference.

Bill Bradfield, M.D., is chief of the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville. Courtney Cook, R.N., is director of birthing at Northern Light Inland Hospital. Crystal Richard is the hospital’s director of women’s health.

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