The New Mental Health Models: Stress-Reduction and Beyond


On Friday, July 14, a group of 18 thought leaders and experts came together for a strategic conversation at the Aspen Institute’s Washington office on recent research and on-the-ground interventions regarding mental health supports and interventions for families with low incomes. The Ascend Strategic Conversation on Maternal Depression and Positive Parenting is part of an ongoing partnership with the Ford Foundation to increase understanding about and support for positive parenting interventions.

Leaders from academia, programs, and philanthropy explored how to leverage research on mental health, with an emphasis on maternal depression, for effective practices and programs serving families with low incomes.

  • Dr. Megan Smith, Associate Professor at the Yale School of Medicine, discussed the history, lessons, and opportunities from the New Haven MOMS Partnership;
  • Jaime Hamil, Research Coordinator at Northwestern University, shared outcomes of the Mothers and Babies course; and
  • Julie Redding, Clinical Director at the Community Caring Collaborative, gave an overview of the various programs that expand resources and increase hope, health, and well-being to the residents of Washington County, Maine.
  • Shakira Washington, Senior Director at The National Crittenton Foundation (TNCF), discussed TNCF’s use of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) model and development of the ACE toolkit.

Attendees shared ideas, insights, and the latest mental health research spanning a variety of sectors; Dr. Smith shared that she was “struck by how cross-cutting this issue is.” The group explored topics such as: ways to mitigate the stigma of depression diagnosis; using the ACE model; and the need to involve overlapping topic area experts, such as workforce development, in discussions around supporting mental health. A few statistics shared by presenters surprised even the seasoned participants, including:

  • On average, 17 years elapse between research publication and implementation of evidence-based practices;
  • Women are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men in the U.S; and
  • Approximately 10-15% of women will experience postpartum depression. An additional 40-50% of low-income women are estimated to have elevated depressive symptoms.

The conversation surfaced several solutions and barriers to mental health supports, such as the importance of policies that enable mothers to access tangible goods like diapers and formula, as well as sparked connections to collaborate, as with the potential scale of home visiting and stress-reduction models. This discussion will be followed by a September 2017 roundtable on Brain Science and Positive Parenting research and approaches hosted by Ascend at the Aspen Institute, which will feature the work of Ascend Fellow Dr. Sarah Watamura.

Lindsay Broyhill is a Communications Strategist and Manager at Ascend at the Aspen Institute.