Mental Health Matters
The first week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), an annual national public education campaign, led by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), designed to help raise the awareness of mental illness. This year's theme, Together for Mental Health, focuses on the importance of advocating for better care for people with mental illness. This awareness week also coincides with National Depression Screening Day on October 7.
It’s important for WIC staff to be aware of the prevalence and impact on health outcomes of maternal and child depression among the WIC target population - the WIC nutrition assessment process and referral services lend themselves well to identifying and linking women with or at risk of depression to appropriate services.
What to know – key points
Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day and can interfere with normal, everyday functioning.
Anyone can get depressed, and depression can happen at any age and in any type of person, and doesn’t feel the same for everyone. Learn more about depression among women.
Many children have fears and worries, including toddlers who may become distressed about being separated from their parents.
Depression during and after pregnancy is common (and treatable), and WIC-eligible women may be more vulnerable to the onset of depression or have an increase in the severity of their mental illness.
Depression can interfere with parenting, potentially leading to problems in the physical health and well-being of children of depressed parents.
Smoking is much more common among adults with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, than in the general population. Research shows that quitting smoking can actually improve mental health in the long run.
How WIC can help
Learn more about this important topic and how it can affect your participants, WIC's role for screening women with or at risk for depression, and find education materials with WIC Works’ curated resources on depression and mental health. You can also test your knowledge using CDC’s interactive mental health quiz to see if you can separate fact from fiction, and NAMI’s StigmaFree quiz to see if stigma might affect you.
Share WIC Breastfeeding Support resources such as the Moms Emotional Wellbeing video and Taking Care of You article with moms.
Help raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health and depression by sharing NAMI materials, including infographics and fact sheets.
Encourage participants who smoke to quit and refer them to resources to help them quit, such as free support at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), a free app, or a texting program.
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.