In an effort to improve the well-being of Oklahoma children, families and communities, we need to give Oklahoma mothers the support they need-including support for those dealing with mental health and substance abuse. . That’s why the University of Oklahoma is launching a Parent Child-Assistance Program study in partnership with our state’s child welfare and ethical health agencies and philanthropic organizations concerned about this issue.
Today, Oklahoma ranks among most states with women’s incarceration, substance use disorders, foster care admission rates and poor childhood experiences. Oklahoma is No. 1 female incarcerator, and most of the incarcerations were drug -related.
While motherhood is stressful under normal circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic has a major impact on mothers, causing large spikes in anxiety and depression. The most recent research showed that 1 in 3 mothers with children at the onset of the pandemic experienced postpartum depression, possibly triple pre-pandemic levels, and 1 in 5 had major depressive symptoms. Over the past few years, the world has been watching as mothers become stay-at-home parents, work-from-home employees and teacher/tech support to their children. This increased stress, anxiety and loneliness all led to more burnout, and now, mothers are experiencing depression and anxiety at a higher level than before the pandemic.
As a researcher, I know that while mental health challenges arise, so do substance use disorders. Many people do not know how to cope with mental health challenges. They try to reinforce it or cope with using anything to reduce their depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. In addition, high rates of childhood trauma, exposure to violence and substance abuse while growing up can all bring mental health challenges and substance use disorders into adulthood.
Now more than ever, we need to give struggling mothers constant support and make a real impact to benefit their lives and the lives of their children. Through the Parent Child Assistance Program, pregnant women and parents with substance use disorders have access to community resources, services and long-term support that can help them build and maintain healthy, independent lives. in the family for themselves and their children. This type of support can change women’s lives and lead to significant public savings, including reduced incarceration, foster care and future substance-exposed births.
If you or know a mother who is struggling with mental health or has a substance use problem, I encourage you to seek help – call a friend or family member, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Oklahoma , or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration National Helpline. Also, later this summer, the OU will enroll mothers in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and surrounding areas struggling with substance use during pregnancy in a Parent-Child Assistance Program study. To sign up, go to ou.edu/pcap or call 405-876-2095. No one has to fight this war alone.
Erin Maher as associate professor of sociology, senior associate director for the University of Oklahoma’s Data Institute for Societal Challenge, and principal investigator for the OU’s Parent-Child Assistance Program.