Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Linda Beeber has dedicated her career at the UNC School of Nursing studying the factors that contribute to depression in new mothers. She is creating home-based mental health care to reduce depression and high risk populations of mothers with infants and toddlers and helping them bond with their babies.

“Well one of the things that I quickly learned was, while we were getting a lot of press from postpartum depression, which finally sort of what is acceptable to people to hear about, that really didn’t capture the whole picture,” Dr. Beeber said.

“One of the things that got clear to us pretty early on was that many women, and I would say most women who become depressed after having a baby, were depressed prior to having a baby or even had the risk factors there for becoming depressed.”

Dr. Beeber is interested in the entire spectrum of depressive symptoms, not just when it gets severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of depression.

“As nurse scientists, we want to intervene as early as possible when they’re still strength that is present in a woman when she still has the strength to rebound from the depressive symptoms and we don’t want it to develop into a full fledged diagnosis.”

Some programs already existed before Dr. Beeber’s research, but not many of them focused on low-income families.

“As I came to understand poverty and understand low income families and the challenges that they face, the idea of having them travel and keep an appointment and all of those kind of middle class things that we use to navigate the health system, we’re not working for these families.

“So I’m doing something in the home, became really clear to me that that was the way to intersect these populations.”

Listen to part one of the interview with Dr. Beeber:

In her work with low income mothers and families in North Carolina who are in desperate need of care, Dr. Beeber often involves students from all the health care disciplines.

“You know, in this state we never did Medicaid expansion, so we’re still kind of cutting out a lot of the resources that we could be using,” Dr. Beeber said. “So care is pretty fragmented for a lot of these folks.

“They don’t go for routine care, they don’t go for early kinds of things so that a small infection blows up and then they show up in the ED, you know, really sick. And that’s what I mean by working with the person. We really have to look at those resources and give them the kind of intervention that they can do.”

When teaching her students, Dr. Beeber tries to emphasize that it is critical to understand the context of people’s lives.

“So whenever I can, we involve all of our students in every aspect of our research, which means taking them into the field to do data collections with us, taking them into the homes to acquaint them with these families.”

Listen to part two of the interview with Dr. Beeber: