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May 17, 2021 52 min

As we continue to celebrate Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, we take a deep dive into the cultural factors that affect perinatal mental health. Today’s guest shares how she’s working to support black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) through the perinatal mental health journey as they transition to parenthood.

Divya Kumar is a South Asian-American psychotherapist with a public health background specializing in perinatal mental health, trauma, and anti-oppression work. Her work connects clinical services with public health by addressing unmet needs in direct perinatal mental healthcare and the structure and delivery of perinatal support services. She is one of the Co-Founders of the Perinatal Mental Health Alliance for People of Color, a program within Postpartum Support International, and a Commissioner on the Ellen Story Commission on Postpartum Depression in Massachusetts. She also writes about the intersections of race, trauma, and perinatal mental health. Divya joins us to discuss how culture and immigration impact perinatal mental health.

Show Highlights:

  • What Divya wants us to know about her work that helps parents and families in the BIPOC community
  • The relief that comes when someone can relate to your cultural background without needing to hear all the details
  • How our thoughts, beliefs, and ideas about our culture affect our narratives, even down to self-care and what we think about seeking support
  • Why many cultures glorify struggle and suffering for mothers to the exclusion of needing self-care, support, and help of any kind
  • How it brings tension to the family when a first-generation immigrant who becomes a mother chooses to go against cultural norms
  • Why following the narrative for mothers to “just try harder” only creates more self-blame and guilt
  • The pieces of loss that complicate the transition to motherhood when cultural assimilation means abandoning important cultural practices and traditions
  • The sense of grief and loss that comes in deciding which cultural traditions to continue on with your own family
  • How culture shows up in daily parenting, even in small details like teaching kids to manage feelings and emotions
  • How cultural narratives interact with perinatal mental health in areas of gratitude and shame
  • How to reduce shame and guilt by unpacking the story down to its roots
  • Divya’s “BothBrownAnd” philosophy in feeling and validating emotions
  • The myth of “Happy Mommy/Happy Baby”--and why it doesn’t work
  • Why the idea of choosing how to mother can be extremely difficult and also transformative at the same time
  • How to cultivate the voice of self-compassion in sustainable ways
  • Why motherhood is a process and a journey that each person can create
  • How Divya works with clients with gentle and compassionate curiosity
  • Parting words from Divya: “Your parenthood story is still being written. We sometimes feel stuck between two places in the non-linear path that takes us through parenthood. You don’t have to have all the answers. Seeing someone with an empathic stance to how you were raised can make all the difference.”
  • Resources:

    Connect with Divya

    Instagram: @bothbrownand_


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