Motherhood in Women with Serious Mental Illness
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This study aimed to determine the prevalence of motherhood among inpatient females at a large state psychiatric hospital in suburban New York, as well as develop an understanding of the characteristics and needs of this unique population. Data on motherhood status was gathered from October 2010 through April 2011 via medical records. Data on custody status, frequency of contacts with children, and effect of mental illness on parenting was assessed through patient surveys and focus groups. 38.5 % of female inpatients were found to be mothers, almost half of whom reported at least weekly contact with children despite their inpatient status. The majority of identified mothers reported having maintained custody of their minor children and expressed great pride at being primary caretakers for their children, yet also emphasized the challenging effects of stigma associated with mental illness and parenting. A significant proportion of women at this psychiatric hospital were found to be mothers. Although acknowledged by some clinicians at the individual level, motherhood appears to remain a forgotten role systemically. Determining motherhood status and recognizing the varied roles our patients have is one more way mental health providers can model and promote recovery-oriented care.