Increasing Awareness Can Help
As noted in the Guidance for Screening and Referring Women with or At Risk for Depression, WIC-eligible pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum individuals may be more vulnerable to the onset of depression or have an increase in the severity of their mental illness. While depression during and after pregnancy is common and treatable, mental health remains a sensitive topic, and despite advances in health equity, disparities in mental health care persist, with racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. being less likely to have access to mental health services.
Racial/ethnic data collected as part of the WIC Participant and Program Characteristics (PC) 2020 indicate that approximately 41% of WIC participants identify as being part of a racial and/or ethnic minority.
While diagnosing and treating mental illness are outside of WIC's scope, WIC’s nutrition assessment process and referral services lend themselves well to identifying and linking at risk pregnant and post-partum women to appropriate services.
How WIC Can Help
- Learn the symptoms and risk factors for depression, with the understanding that depression doesn’t feel the same for everyone.
- Participate in training on depression (see examples of free training resources State WIC or other sister programs (e.g., Head Start) use in the WIC Nutrition Risk Guidance on this topic).
- Become familiar with mental and behavioral health disparities and data for minority populations, and how certain factors may guide education and referral services WIC provides:
- Incorporate depression screening into the WIC nutrition assessment process if a State agency uses the depression nutrition risk.
- Deliver participant-centered and culturally and linguistically appropriate services using a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens.
- Establish/strengthen partnerships with mental providers and provide effective and timely referrals to local health and mental health resources.
- Provide resources on how to talk about mental health to parents and caregivers who are concerned about certain behaviors their child exhibits or about signs of mental health problems from family and friends, particularly those who are a part of a mom’s support system, can affect mom’s caretaking abilities, and/or are involved in caretaking.
Additional Mental Health Resources
WIC Works Resource System
- Mental Disorders and Related Topics - an index of mental disorders
- Moms' Mental Health Matters - an initiative designed to educate consumers and health care providers about this topic as it relates to pregnant and postpartum women
- Maternal Mental Health - information on perinatal mood disorders common among women before, during, and/or after pregnancy
- Children’s Mental Health - information on symptoms, who is affected, the impact of mental disorders on children, and the different types of disorders
- Child and Adolescent Mental Health - warning signs that a child displaying troubling behavior might need help
WIC Breastfeeding Support
- Moms' Emotional Wellbeing (video to share with mothers)
- Taking Care of You
- Self Care - Mental and Emotional Health (social media post for sharing)
Resources for Individuals in Need of Assistance (emergent or otherwise)
new! The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support via phone or text for people in distress. This shorter phone number will make it easier for people to remember and access mental health crisis services. There is also a web chat available 24/7.
Prevention and crisis resources, including posters and a magnet (available in Spanish), wallet cards, and safety plan pads, are available for professionals to download or order.
- The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline, 1-833-9HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746), is a free English and Spanish language confidential hotline for pregnant and new moms, available 24/7. Check out the Maternal Mental Health page on WIC Works for an additional resource.
- SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator is a confidential and anonymous source of information for persons seeking treatment facilities in the United States or U.S. Territories for substance use/addiction and/or mental health problems.
- Mental Health America's Finding Therapy site shares a fact sheet and referral sources.
- The Helping Your Loved One Who is Suicidal: A Guide for Family and Friends downloadable publication provides information on understanding suicide, warning signs and action steps to take, and how to prevent future attempts and keep your loved one safe.
Looking for more information? Check out these mental health-related resources found on WIC Works.