Words by: Jacqueline Gonzalez Photos by: Rachel Benavides
The stigma surrounding mental health creates a fear of reaching out for help, casting a pall over millions of women all around the world. Sometimes dismissed as the baby blues or as a woman simply adjusting to motherhood, postpartum depression steals the joy from a mom’s life.
Liz Perez, a mother of three beautiful girls, is not only the Executive Director and Founder of the Corpus Christi Maternal Mental Health Coalition, but also one of the many women who have experienced postpartum depression and not known where to seek help.
After a late diagnosis of postpartum depression, Liz reached out to various Facebook groups in hopes of finding other mothers in the same situation. After coming to the realization that the problem was not just local but worldwide, she entertained the idea of creating a safe space for women experiencing mental health issues after pregnancy. After moving back to Corpus and settling in her permanent home, she knew the next logical step would be to seek help at an established organization or practice designed for postpartum depression. To her chagrin, the only organizations she discovered offered help in a specialized capacity, such as drug abuse during pregnancy. She wanted to be the help that she needed four years ago and fill a need that would not only help her, but also the community.
What initially began as The Silent Struggle, a website where Liz shared postpartum depression information and her personal story, eventually blossomed into the Corpus Christi Maternal Mental Health Coalition. Liz decided to change the name to encompass women in all stages of motherhood. The CCMMHC holds monthly peer – to – peer support groups designed to offer a safe, judgment free conversational space for women to share their stories and connect with other women for support.
Together with Jesikah Gutierrez, the Director of Community Outreach and Development, Liz has continued to strengthen this coalition to become a legacy for the women of the Coastal Bend. Liz proudly states that everyone involved in the coalition has passion that comes from experience. With a shared passion and vision for the community, Liz and Jesikah strive to continue growing the CCMMHC and establish more community connections to help Coastal Bend women.
New things are on the horizon for the CCMMHC. Liz is working diligently to develop curriculum and a care package for new mothers. She’s also creating a separate support group for women and their significant others. This allows a woman’s primary support system to get proper information on postpartum depression.
This is not Liz’s first rodeo in community involvement; she is also a Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee member. A very diligent mother, wife, and member of the community, Liz will stop at nothing to bring greatness to the Coastal Bend and provide help to those in need.
Memorable Peer – to – Peer Support Group moment:
“A group of women took a leap of faith and skeptically entered the meeting room. As they sat around the table, I knew I needed to break the ice, so I shared my story. A few women began to warm up to speaking, but there was a bit more ice breaking needed. Jesikah spoke up and shared her story. Once the women felt more comfortable, they all began talking and sharing their stories. It was as if an invisible rope tied us together. We gave them a safe space they needed to laugh and be happy and talk.”