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Climb Out of the Darkness’ first Baton Rouge fundraiser puts perinatal mental health first

While pregnancy is one of the most beautiful experiences a mom can go through, it is also one of the most challenging. It’s important to take care of your body—watch the foods you eat, get regular exercise and make sure the baby is getting all of the nutrients it needs to be healthy—but mental health is a major component too.

Climb Out of the Darkness is working to provide resources and spread awareness about perinatal mental health in the Baton Rouge community. The organization is hosting its first Climb fundraiser in the Capital City on June 25 at Highland Road Park to give parents the opportunity to come together and find resources and support.

Event organizers Jensine Speed, Artie Varnado and Michelle Reyes decided to bring Climb—which also has national branches—to Baton Rouge to help address the often overlooked issue of perinatal mental health. All three women have seen the impact proper care can make. Speed started a private mental health practice called Siha after her own experiences with perinatal mental health disorder. Varnado is the president of local nonprofit Conscious Moms. And Reyes runs her own private practice, The Maternal Wellness Clinic.

According to Postpartum Support International, from which Climb Out of the Darkness sprung, 15 to 20% of birthing parents experience significant depression or anxiety during or following pregnancy, but many feel embarrassed to reach out or don’t know where to find help.

“The three of us want to create a safe space for moms, dads and families to discuss the impact birthing has on one’s mental health,” Speed says.

The free event will include live music, crafts, a food truck and a wealth of community resources. Proceeds raised during the event will go toward providing training and literature for local medical professionals and offering financial assistance to parents to help cover the costs of support services like perinatal counseling and medication management.

“My goal is to normalize mental health therapy particularly related to motherhood, because being a mom is hard,” Speed says. “In American society, the challenges of motherhood aren’t openly talked about, such as a couple who is trying to conceive a child and are unsuccessful due to fertility issues. Being pregnant brings about so many hormonal changes and directly impacts your mood for better or worse.”

This is Baton Rouge’s first Climb event, but Speed hopes that it will mark a new era of education and support for parents within the community.

“My hopes are that we as a community will do a better job of really checking on and supporting birthing families regardless of age, education, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status to ensure they are being cared for appropriately,” she says. “I hope more of my licensed mental health colleagues will be inspired to become trained in this discipline because we need more providers to support families who are adjusting to their new life, whether it’s coming to terms that they may not be able to conceive a child, coping with pregnancy/infant loss, difficulties of pregnancy, or postpartum struggles.”

For more information about the event, click here.