Alma

An innovative peer-support program for women experiencing perinatal depression.

Alma, launched in 2018, is a research study co-created with Dr. Sona Dimidjian and the CREST Lab of CU Boulder. to provide peer mentoring to depressed pregnant or postpartum women. Alma is informed by an evidenced-based approach for depression, Behavioral Activation, and gives “compañeras” tools to share with pregnant women and mothers of children ages 0–3.

Moms supporting moms

The Challenge

 

One of the most unmet needs across the US is mental health, and Colorado is no exception. Among mental health problems, depression is the most common. Women have double the odds of getting depressed as men and commonly experience depression during the childbearing and early parenting years. If left untreated, depression can be very hard on moms and their babies. Of the pregnant and postpartum women who experience depression, up to 70% of them never receive help. Although the gap between need and accessible mental health care impacts all families at all income levels, the situation is especially dire for some populations, such as individuals living in poverty, in rural areas with limited access to services, and monolingual Spanish-speaking immigrants.

 

“To me, wow…this program is magic.”

The Work

The heart of the Alma program is the team of trained mentors, mothers who have faced depression in their own lives and want to support others who are struggling with depression symptoms during pregnancy or early parenting. Aligning with the “task-shifting” concept, peer mentors are trained to apply the Alma program skills in their own lives, and then to support other mothers in doing the same. They provide 6-8 sessions with the mothers with whom they are paired. The Alma program is inspired by Behavioral Activation, a type of psychotherapy that many studies have demonstrated to be effective in supporting recovery from depression. It is important to note that peer mentors are not professional therapists, counselors, or psychologists – if a participant in the program is in need of professional support for her mental or physical health, she will be referred to a community agency.


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Task Shifting

The paradigm of “task shifting,” in which tasks traditionally reserved for specialist providers are shared with non-specialist, lay, or peer providers has been used with great success to increase access to mental health care in many countries. Alma is a new program, developed by a collaborative team of researchers, clinicians, and mothers who have personal experience with depression, to support women experiencing depression during pregnancy and the postpartum.


 

“These moms are motivated…they strive every day to continue moving forward”

Partnering for Scale

The Alma program is being implemented in three different sites across Colorado to meet the needs of English and Spanish speaking women who are living in both rural and urban settings. One partnership is with CU Boulder and Kaiser Permanente of Colorado, where mentors will be trained using a digital training platform to work with English-speaking mothers in the urban Denver area. Another partnership is between CU Boulder and Valley Settlement, located in the Roaring Fork Valley, where mentors will work with Spanish-speaking mothers in rural Colorado. The use of the Alma program in the context of these partnerships will inform the development of tools for rapid replication and scaling of the program in new settings across the state and nation.


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The Impact of Alma

Learn more about the Alma program and the impact on moms.


 

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