MHAFC, POEM Increase Efforts to Support Maternal Mental Health

Columbus, OH (January 8, 2013) – Mental Health America of Franklin County (MHAFC) and POEM (Perinatal Outreach and Encouragement for Moms) have joined together in an effort to increase maternal mental health for residents throughout Ohio. 

Founded in 2005 as an independent not-for-profit organization, POEM will continue as a program of MHAFC, offering Mom-to-Mom support via phone, email and groups; and referrals to psychotherapeutic, medical and community resources. The merger will allow POEM to build upon its prior successes as the only organization of its kind in the state of Ohio, and will also allow MHAFC to extend its area of expertise.

“We have long desired to enhance our capacity in the maternal mental health field,” explained MHAFC’s Executive Director Laura Moskow Sigal. “This new partnership allows us to do just that, and we couldn’t be more excited to help support mothers to achieve wellness and build the healthy, loving families that they so desire.”

Mental health issues affect one in four individuals, yet only 16% seek support. MHAFC has a nearly 60-year legacy of providing support services, advocacy and education in Central Ohio for individuals both directly and indirectly affected by mental illness. As a leader in promoting mental health issues, the agency assists nearly 60,000 individuals each year assess their own mental health, connect with community resources and navigate the complex mental health system.

In addition to creating organizational efficiencies by reducing overhead, the merger will also successfully leverage more funding for maternal mental health programming, supporting MHAFC’s long-term vision to make Columbus a happier and healthier place to call home.

Moskow Sigal said, “When a mother is healthy, both mentally and physically, the entire family thrives. And when families thrive, so does the community. MHAFC is honored to advance POEM’s innovative programming to build new pathways for families in Ohio who need support.”

Tonya Fulwider, MHAFC Program Director and POEM Co-Founder, also anticipates that the collaboration will sustain POEM’s vital work long into the future. She said, “Now, as much as ever, we must think about how to be strong, resourceful and provide help appropriate to the diverse needs of our community and state. By partnering with MHAFC, we will no doubt reach more mothers who have little resources of their own or who may feel isolated in their struggle with postpartum depression and related disorders.”

The number one complication of childbirth, postpartum depression (PPD), affects over 700,000 women in the U.S. each year—about 20% of all new mothers. Symptoms include a wide range of emotional and physiological reactions to childbirth that can occur during pregnancy and/or for up to one year postpartum. These may include excessive worry and anxiety; feelings of sadness, hopelessness or phobia; inability to sleep; exhaustion; disinterest or detachment around the baby; or physical discomfort without an attributable cause.

Any woman, including those without a prior history of mental health concerns, is at risk for developing PPD. The perinatal illness exceeds so-called “baby blues”—a condition where most new mothers will temporarily experience increased sadness, weepiness, anxiousness, exhaustion and mood instability in the days immediately following childbirth.

The work of POEM is personal for Fulwider. She shared, “When I experienced postpartum depression after the birth of my oldest daughter, I was astounded by the lack of resources in our community, and really statewide. I was compelled, along with POEM’s Co-Founder Amy Trenor Burt, to do something. That’s when we started POEM, and since that time, we have helped thousands of mothers survive their own perinatal illnesses and in turn, better care for themselves and their children.”

Mothers seeking support and resources may continue to call the POEM Program Line at 614-315-8989 or reach Fulwider at MHAFC, 614-221-1441. To learn more about POEM, or access any of Mental Health America of Franklin County’s programs and services, please visit

Founded in 1956, Mental Health America of Franklin County is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and raising awareness and understanding of mental health issues through advocacy, education and support services in our community.


Contact information:

Laura Moskow Sigal, Executive Director
614-221-1441 x101 (o)
614-975-9612 (c)

Jen Patterson, Development & Marketing Director
614-221-1441 x105 (o)