School of Social Work to hold perinatal mental health symposium

By Olivia Welshans, Staff Writer

A national symposium, which will bring together patients and providers in perinatal mental health for the first time ever, will be held at the Illinois Conference Center and iHotel from Friday to Saturday.

Perinatal depression is depression during, and the year following pregnancy. Karen Tabb, associate professor in social work said one in seven women and one in seven men will experience symptoms of perinatal depression.

“People usually think it means laying in their bed crying,” Tabb said. “It’s not that. There can be symptoms of rage, irritability, loss of appetite, loss of interest to do things and an inability to experience joy.”

Tabb said this week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and they want to raise awareness about the topic and help provide solutions to get people the support they need.

The National Perinatal Depression Research Engagement Symposium will present findings in perinatal mental health research and allow people to learn more about research led by patient-researchers.

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Patient-researchers are people who research things they’ve experienced themselves, said Meghan Kirkpatrick, patient advisory board member and project manager. In this case they have been through pregnancy or perinatal depression.

“They bring a real understanding to what is being studied and what kinds of interventions would be the most helpful,” Kirkpatrick said. “You want to be sure your research stays grounded in something that can create actual change.

Kirkpatrick said they want to bring patients’ lived experiences into the research, increasing the dialogue between researchers and patients. Patients are learning how research works, while informing how research should work.

The symposium aims to increase the capacity of patients, stakeholders and researchers to engage in comparative and effectiveness research, which compare two or more options to make outcomes better, Tabb said.

Tabb said they want this symposium to change the way research is done, how they approach the topic and make sure they come up with solutions that a beneficial to everyone.

This research is funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a mechanism which was created through ObamaCare, Tabb said. Many of the researchers who will be presenting at the event also receive funding through this institute.

Two different patient advisory boards will be in attendance, IDEA Women’s Health Coalition Advisory Board and Iowa Perinatal Health Research Collaborative Community Advisory Board. They will be conducting a patient-researcher panel to discuss what led them to this type of research.

Tabb said this symposium is just one step toward improving how health care providers identify and treat people with prenatal depression. They want to help doctors integrate depression screening activities into their clinics, but also teach them how to link their patients with services.

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