Jade Kearney, who has a background in education, talent development, yoga, and mindfulness, is the Founder and CEO of She Matters, a digital community created to serve Black women’s mental health needs, specifically Black parents who are coping with postpartum anxiety and depression. As a mother who experienced both postpartum anxiety and depression during her postnatal journey, Jade seeks to create a space for Black women to connect and discuss their mental wellness. In addition, She Matters provides access to culturally competent therapists and mental health resources for the community.
Could you share a little bit about your own postpartum mental health journey, and what the defining moment was that sparked the idea to create this community?
My postpartum journey was frightening and lonely, but also life-changing. I had intrusive thoughts after having my first daughter three and a half years ago, and in my mind, I was failing. How could I have thoughts about harming my baby? I was so in love with her, so those early days of postpartum were filled with so much pain and shame. I searched for answers with family and friends, but due to the cultural stigma around mental illness, I was met with sarcasm, humiliation, and a general disregard for my feelings.
When I spoke with my OB-GYN, I experienced a general detachment and negligence for my mental health. My doctor, who had just saved my daughter and my life [during childbirth], couldn’t empathize with what I was going through, so he sent me Zoloft (which I did not pick up) and said he would check in with me in three weeks. At this point, I did what many people would do. I started to Google everything I was experiencing and finally figured out that intrusive thoughts during the postpartum period are common. Women were sharing their stories, but none of those women were Black, so I felt unsure about sharing my experience with PMADs (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders). I wanted to speak with other Black women.
At that point, I knew I had to create a platform for Black mamas. We should all have access to community, culturally relevant resources, and culturally competent therapists.
Let’s discuss the gravity of the maternal health and morbidity crisis for Black birthing people especially. How does that translate into the postpartum period and place more of an emphasis on postpartum mental wellness?
Before a Black woman even gets pregnant, we are made aware of the epidemic in this country around Black maternal health, so once we are pregnant, we are worried. I myself worried about fair treatment, adequate care, and even about dying. I actually changed medical practices at 27 weeks of pregnancy because I felt like I was being treated like a statistic instead of a human. So, imagine going through all of these hurdles to bring your child into this world safely, through a medical system of proven systemic racism, and then facing all the “regular” challenges of postpartum. Of course, there are a number of Black mamas who are already suffering during the perinatal period because of the fear Black women have about not living through their birth.
Could you speak to the features of the digital community and its goals to unite Black parents, and how that expands to the app and beyond?
Our digital community consists of a chat feature and lounges segmented by topic, including single parenting and postpartum, medication and anxiety, as well as culturally relevant resources sourced by NYU’s School of Public Health. There are also culturally competent therapists Black mamas can connect with. All of these features are free to Black women. We also sell a wellness box that can be purchased on the platform or app, that we call “Wellness for Wellness,” and the purpose is to give a Black mama therapy. You get luxurious self-care items in the box that are curated to balance mind, body, and spirit, while the proceeds go directly to therapy for Black mothers.
Postpartum mental health struggles can be isolating in general, especially when people see other new parents posting “picture perfect” moments on social media. Not to mention the isolation that’s been compounded by a global pandemic and social distancing. How can something like the SheMatters app, and other digital mental health resources for postpartum parents, be especially crucial during the isolating period we’ve all just been through?
Through SheMatters, parents can see that they aren’t alone and that help is so close by. I think when you are experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, you think it’s only you suffering. However, joining communities and getting up-to-date, accurate information about these experiences can be the difference between suffering in silence and thriving through your postpartum journey.
When you meet other new parents, especially those who are struggling with their mental health and share their stories with you, what’s the first piece of advice you give them?
The first thing I say is “be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and honor where you are.” Once you do, recovery can begin.