In an effort to better support working families, New York City will soon offer first-time parents free postpartum mental health visits. The initiative comes as part of a new $43 million program spearheaded by Chirlane McCray, the wife of New York City Gov. Bill de Blasio. Under the city's New Family Home Visits initiative, first-time parents will be eligible to receive up to six home visits and mental health screenings geared at recognizing anxiety and depression. The program will also seek to identify a families' unique needs and connect them with the resources and support needed.
"All parents in our city should have the support they need at the start of their most important journey, and we are taking an exciting new step to make that happen," McCray said in a statement released by the city. "Home visits are proven to strengthen bonds between parents and their babies, lower the risk for maternal anxiety and depression, and support healthy brain development during a crucial time."
The initiative will provide first-time parents with up to six home visits, a telephone follow-up, and, if needed, doula support. While the visits will begin prenatally, they can continue until the child is up to 2 months of age, the city said in a press release. Along with home visits, the initiative will also provide parents with "comprehensive health education" and connect them to additional resources like infant feeding, infant safe sleep, mental health screenings for anxiety and depression, and referrals for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Additionally, The New York Times reported that the program aims to serve all families, regardless of their income level, sexual or gender orientation, or whether the child was adopted or conceived.
In paying special attention to parents' mental health, New York City's New Family Home Visits initiative could have a powerful, and positive, impact on new parents. Research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that roughly 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Additionally, recent research has shown that, although under-discussed, male postpartum depression is very real with 26% of men showing signs of it three to six months after their child's arrival.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, promised the program would offer parents services to "help them to develop strong emotional bonds with their children, as well as provide their babies with the support to flourish and live healthy lives." While the program is set to launch first in Brooklyn, it is expected to become the nation's largest city home visiting program when it expands citywide by 2024.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety during pregnancy, or in the postpartum period, contact the Postpartum Health Alliance warmline at (888) 724-7240, or Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773. If you are thinking of harming yourself or your baby, get help right away by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or dialing 911. For more resources, you can visit Postpartum Support International.