A local program aimed at helping moms who are struggling with mental health is raising funds to expand services through partnerships with local hospitals. In 2016, Nikki Brooker was working as a …
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A local program aimed at helping moms who are struggling with mental health is raising funds to expand services through partnerships with local hospitals.
In 2016, Nikki Brooker was working as a substitute teacher at Bear Canyon Elementary Schoo in Highlands Ranch. When a mother from the school shot herself and her two children, it rocked the community and Brooker, being a Type A personality, could not stand by and do nothing.
Brooker founded the nonprofit You Are Not Alone Mom 2 Mom (YANAM2M) and never looked back, developing a community service where mothers can get help before they do something that cannot be reversed.
Brooker, of Highlands Ranch, started hosting weekly meetings and assigning sponsor moms to anyone asking for help.
Joan Mahoney, currently of Elizabeth, said YANAM2M helped save her from what she described as a “very dark time in my life.”
Mahoney explained that she and her family had been living in Littleton when her husband lost his job, forcing them to move in with her in-laws. Add in an unexpected third pregnancy, and Mahoney said life got overwhelming.
“I started having suicidal thoughts,” Mahoney said. “I was convinced my family would be better off without me. I was evening starting to plan it. I started reaching out and reaching out. YANA was the one that reached back.”
Brooker assigned Mahoney to a sponsor mom, Carol, who came from a similar situation. Mahoney said before long she learned she had that group of supportive moms, was not alone and what she was feeling is relatable.
Mahoney said while she was meeting with Carol, Brooker would personally watch her children.
“I didn't have to worry and look over my shoulder to make sure they were OK,” Mahoney said. “(Brooker) orchestrated all of it just to get me out. Carol would call and check on me knowing I was not going to call them.”
YANAM2M started small and has continued to grow steadily over the last five years.
Now, Brooker said it is time for the program to take a step into another level. Aiming to mimic the La Leche organization's model, Brooker said she is working with local hospitals to reach moms while they are still in the hospital after delivering a baby.
La Leche works with mothers to breastfeed their infants. Consultants for the program go into hospital rooms to provide support and coaching to help interested moms start the breastfeeding process as smoothly as possible.
Not only has the La Leche program made a difference in the lives of many mothers, Brooker said they are her model because it all started in a basement in 1956 with two mothers.
Brooker said mental health is just as important to new moms as breastfeeding, and she would like to make connections with them as soon as possible.
According to the American Psychology Association, in the U.S. one in seven women suffer from postpartum depression, meaning 800,000 new mothers are impacted each year.
While a mother who just delivered a baby may not know if they need mental health guidance, Brooker said making the connection early to let them know YANAM2M is always there is important for future reference.
Brooker said moms will continue to get follow-up calls after three months, six months, nine months and at the 12-month mark. Moms who want continued assistance will get it. Those who don't will have their wishes respected, Brooker said.
Postpartum depression does not have a timer, Brooker said. It may not start as soon as the baby is born, she said. It does not just go away at the one-month or one-year mark, she said. Women can be impacted by postpartum depression for years, she continued.
Mahoney said postpartum and prepartum depression is real, and if a mom is dealing with financial and family stress, things can only get worse. Programs like YANAM2M are a valuable resource, she said.
For the new program to see success, Brooker said up-front costs have to be met. Brooker said the organization relies on grant funds, but a lot of programs only want to provide financial support to organizations helping low-income families.
YANAM2M is for all mothers, Brooker said, no matter which income class they may fall.
Brooker said in the metro area, several of the mothers who have committed suicide are considered middle-class.
“Depression does not know income or standing in the community,” Brooker said. “Depression can impact any mother at any time. They all need our help. Programs like this are tough to explain and understand. Mental health is not always explained through simple scientific reasoning.”
To raise the funds to get the new program operating in Highlands Ranch and, eventually, at other hospitals along the Front Range, Brooker will be hosting the Strong Mama Gala fundraiser on Dec. 3.
With a goal to raise $100,000, Brooker said the special event will be held at the Village Workspace, 7173 S. Havana St. #600, Centennial, with free food and drinks. With a hefty goal, Brooker said she estimates it will cost $70,000 in the first year to get the new program going.
The Strong Mama Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit the website at yanam2m.org.
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