Meet our wonderful Parent Resilience Specialist for the Latinx community, Stephanie!
Stephanie Valerdi (she/they) was born in Puebla, Mexico and grew up in Seattle where she currently resides with her 6 year old son. She has personal experience navigating the mental health systems and as an immigrant, she is passionate about using her ability to speak both Spanish and English to help families access the help they deserve without the language barrier as an additional obstacle.
What do you want to share about your perinatal experience?
A big eye opener for me was learning how long the postpartum period really is. Everyone is on the lookout for symptoms in those first 4 months and if you don’t fall within that time period the signs can be missed. I didn’t consider postpartum depression because my son was 9 months old. Things are “supposed” to be better by then. And when you’re struggling it can feel so isolating to be in that state of mind. In the PERC program we work with moms up to 2 years postpartum, and I’ve definitely seen other moms go through a similar experience.
What brought you to PS-WA and what is your current role?
I come from a background in early childhood education. I’ve always been passionate about working with families, holding space for children and adults alike. My work with families has always gone above the description of a teacher. Often I’d be supporting parents in many ways, translation, finding services, and resources. I was excited about working with PS-WA and using my skills to uplift my community. Currently, I am the Parent Resilience Specialist for the Latinx community.
What has your experience been like working with PERC?
My experience with PERC has been great. It has been such a rewarding experience working with my participants, in our native language and sharing our experience as Latinx parents in this country. Helping my participants see that we have a community in the PNW and helping them find their voice in advocating for their mental health not only drives me to do the work, but also advocates for more diversity within these fields. More mental health organizations should be providing culturally matched care, and doing the work to remove the obstacles that BIPOC have in accessing that care.
What are common themes in your interactions with perinatal populations?
Shame, so many parents feel ashamed to even admit they are struggling. Parents’ mental health is so often forgotten during the perinatal period. Everyone gets wrapped up in the baby and the excitement. Within the Latinx community Moms are often expected to jump right back into caregiver mode, and diminish their needs as a human. Asking for help or admitting you are struggling can feel so shameful.
What are the benefits of peer support/PERC that you have observed?
The importance of peer support is something that has been so prevalent in my sessions. Connecting with someone who has been in those dark places as you have, can be so meaningful. The moms I’ve worked with often thank me for speaking so candidly on my struggles, and it goes to show that these things need to be talked about. So many parents are struggling with scary thoughts/feelings and feeling isolated, meanwhile feeling shame for feeling that way.
How does culturally matched care enhance the experiences of your participants?
As an latinx immigrant in this country I have seen how hard it can be to connect with a therapist, or any provider. It helps to have someone understand the Latinx family dynamic and culture. It also provides a level of trust. So many programs/providers disregard our cultural background even when it is a key part of our identity as parents.
Do you have any overarching advice for a person experiencing a perinatal mood and/or anxiety disorder?
Having a hard time, and struggling does not negate how strong you are. Sometimes we struggle to see the strength in ourselves and the strength in asking for help when we need it. I see so much strength and resilience in the moms I work with everyday.