October 6, 2021

Local Pharmaceutical Company Invests in App Geared to Moms

By Anne Levin

Terra LaRock was blindsided when, after the birth of her first child, she fell into postpartum depression. As a child, family, and school psychologist, she never expected it would happen to her. When it did, she didn’t know where to turn.

LaRock’s struggles led her to found Mindful Mamas, an app devoted to the problems often faced by new mothers as well as those further along in their maternal journeys. Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., which has headquarters in Carnegie Center, recently announced it had invested in the app, “underscoring the company’s belief that digital solutions can provide ways to manage mental health challenges in real time,” according to a statement from the company. The announcement was released just before Mental Health Awareness Week, which ends on Saturday.

LaRock, who lives in Denver, founded Mindful Mamas in 2020 — five years after beginning her journey out of the depths. “There was one night I was in the nursery before work, with my daughter,” she said. “It was the third or fourth consecutive hour that she was screaming. I realized, at that moment, that all of the things that we had bought and put around the nursery, to help us be ‘good parents,’ were not going to help me. Because all I had was myself, and the way my nervous system responded to that situation.”

LaRock found mindfulness and meditation to be her pathway back to mental health. On the website mindful.org, mindfulness is defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Having been helped by these concepts herself, LaRock made it her mission to aid other mothers. “I was blindsided by my own struggles with postpartum and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder),” she said. “For me, it was really an awakening of how mental health issues don’t discriminate. It can be incredibly hard to speak about it and get the help and support you need.”

While the app is focused on mindfulness and meditation, users don’t have to be proficient in those concepts to participate. “We have a lot of ‘newbies,’ as we call them,” said LaRock. “We have different journeys on the app that meet you where you are, from trying to conceive all the way through adult children. It’s just about feeling the effects of motherhood and life. Moms are able to start with the basics and learn what mindfulness and meditation are all about. We have plans that go beyond mindfulness and meditation, but that is where we’re starting.”

The app currently offers a library of more than 500 mindfulness and self-care practices to help regulate emotions and normalize the experiences of motherhood. So far, it has surpassed 125,000 downloads in more than 50 countries, with the average user accessing it twice a day, according to information from Otsuka.

LaRock said Mindful Mamas and Otsuka are a good fit. “We share a common belief that mental health is not limited to pharmaceuticals,” she said. “We can help bring to market a common sense solution.“

The app can be found on the Google and Apple app stores. It is free to download and try for a week, and free, new content is always available. Annual or monthly premium plans are available if a user wants access to the entire library.

“There is still a lot of work to do when it comes to the stigma of mental health and the perception of what it means to be a good mother,” LaRock said. “We are in the middle of a societal and political awakening, finding that moms and families matter. But we need to keep the drumbeat of mental health alive.”