AOL News and Other Media Outlets: When Are You Going to Get It Right?

So, I’m at work this morning and all of a sudden I get wind through an alert from Kat Stone regarding another public media screw-up, this time in the form of an AOL article on Shaquan Duley, the mother accused of killing her 2 year old and 18 month old sons in what they are indicating was a staged accident reminiscent of the Susan Smith incident that took place back in 1994 (can’t believe it was that long ago!).  Well, this article contained references to postpartum depression (PPD), and boy, was the article a MAJOR BOO-BOO, FAUX PAS, GAFFE.  Get the picture?

I was at work during all of this, and as such, I couldn’t read any blog posts, comment on any blog posts, tweet, or put up my own blog post.  I had to wait all day.  It’s now after 8 PM, nearly 12 hours after this all went down, and finally getting to really tweet anything or post comments on blogs.   And I had to wait until my daughter went to bed before writing this post.  It was NOT easy for me to have to wait when my entire being wants me to do it right then and there! 

In a relatively short period of time, with fast and furious tweets and the speed at which blog posts were put up by many bloggers soon thereafter, AOL got the hint.  Within 1-1/2 hours, it pulled all reference to a crime profiler by the name of Pat Brown (who is she?).  Well, now many of us will always know her to be the one who made the following horrendously off-the-mark and demeaning remarks about women who have suffered or are suffering from PPD–words which should incite anger in every one of us:

Most women who suffer depression after their children are born are suffering from post-how-did-I-get-stuck-with-this-kid, this body, this life? They may be depressed, but it is their situation and their psychopathic personality that brings them to kill their children, and not some chemical malfunction.

WTF?  The first sentence implies that PPD is nothing but a “crock,” a lame excuse for not being able to cope with the new baby and motherhood.  The second sentence implies that 1) PPD moms kill their children and 2) there’s no such thing as a chemical imbalance (hello, Tom Cruise?).  Again, WTF?!  I don’t usually like to swear even in acronym form, but these remarks merit such a strong reaction on my part.  Pat Brown, where have you been all these years?  A cave?  Because you seem to be stuck in prehistoric times.  Why does everyone have to think “Here’s another Andrea Yates” –who by the way had postpartum psychosis, not PPD–every time there is news about a mother who hurts or kills her young children?   Not all moms with PPD end up hurting their children, and even among postpartum psychosis moms, that is rare.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she is an anti-pharma proponent.  It’s quite clear she’s convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that, despite the fact that pregnancy and childbirth are all about extreme hormonal fluctuations, there is nothing chemical about PPD.   I see she’s been reading up on PPD, checking out numerous books listed on the Postpartum Support International website.  NOT!

For every step forward we make in destigmatizing PPD, we fall 10 steps backward thanks to false statements such as the ones uttered by this “criminal profiler.”  I hope she has learned not to drop comments about PPD in the media ever again.  At least, not until she REALLY GETS IT.  Just as I hope that AOL News has learned not to depend on people making comments on topics at which they are far from being experts.

I was disheartened by the fact that here we have people in media–this time AOL News–publishing misinformation about such an important topic with information derived from someone they thought was knowledgeable about PPD.  On the other hand, I was heartened by the immediate response from the sisterhood of PPD survivor mamas, all speaking up about their feelings–of contempt of course–for these irresponsible remarks made about PPD.  I can’t say I’m heartened that AOL removed the contemptuous comments as quickly as they did.  I was surprised, though.  And it’s all thanks to all you PPD survivors/warrior mamas out there that spoke up.  Good for you! 

It was IRRESPONSIBLE for Pat Brown–one who has no expertise or experience whatsoever on the topic– to make these remarks.  It was REPREHENSIBLE for AOL News to quote someone like this, rather than using medical professional who is trained in diagnosing perinatal mood disorders or someone from Postpartum Support International, the largest organization in the world dedicated to maternal mental health.  Postpartum Support International’s website is a wealth of information on the latest research and legislative developments, as well as resources for anyone and everyone interested in learning more about PPD.

Here is but a partial listing of all the blog posts I have come across in response to AOL News and Pat Brown:

  1. Postpartum Progress
  2. Her Bad Mother
  3. Pretty Babies – includes unbelievable responses (two) from Pat Brown to Amy’s open letter to her (via email)
  4. Charmingly Chandler – includes unbelievable response from Pat Brown to Alena’s open letter to her (via email)
  5. Make Mommy Go Something Something
  6. Not Super Just Mom
  7. Erika Krull, Psych Central
  8.  Urban Moms DIY
  9. The Covered Wagon
  10. My Postpartum Voice

Here’s a wonderful excerpt from Her Bad Mother’s post, “The Monster in the Closet” written in response to this AOL debacle.  Please read the complete blog post as it truly hits home why media must avoid carelessly dropping remarks that are completely wrong and can be harmful to all too many people out there.  After all, isn’t it the news providers like the New York Times, CNN, etc. that are responsible for providing accurate news to inform and educate?  Mind you, I’m not talking about the National Enquirer or anything.

This is not to say that every mother who harms her child is struggling with postpartum depression, or any kind of perinatal mood disorder or non-perinatal mood disorder or depression or mental illness. This is not to say that there is no such thing as abusive mothers…..It is to say that blanket characterizations of mothers who harm their children as cold-blooded and shameful and bad – as does the horrifying, appalling article posted at AOL – can have a terribly – possibly deadly – effect on women struggling with the darkness, inasmuch at these deepen and perpetuate the shame associated with that darkness. A mom that is ashamed of what she is going through – a mom who fears being labeled ‘bad’ because she is battling darkness at a time when she is supposed to be – supposed to be! – dancing in the light – is a mom who might not admit to what she is going through, a mom who might not seek help, a mom who might not get help.

*Apparently, AOL has edited some of the original comments out of the article. That there was such an article in the first place, one that focused entirely on one ‘expert’s’ claim that mothers who harm their children are all cold-blooded criminals, is still evidence of the deeper problem that I’m speaking about here.

I’m sure there are a lot more out there that I’m not aware about through all the tweets and links I stumbled across within the past few hours.  If you’d like me to add you to the list, please let me know!

I just want to end my post with this:  I am proud to be one of the sisterhood of PPD survivors/warrior moms who have experienced the #1 complication of childbirth firsthand and truly know what it’s like to suffer from this debilitating condition.  Don’t ever let anyone who isn’t either a true expert or a survivor tell you that what you “claim” you have suffered is a “crock.”

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7 thoughts on “AOL News and Other Media Outlets: When Are You Going to Get It Right?

  1. Thanks for the link, and for further spreading the word! We did a LOT to raise awareness over the last 24 hours, and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.

    Amy @ prettybabies

    • Amy,
      Thanks for stopping by! And thank YOU for your great post yesterday, so timely and effective…and your attempt to turn the light bulb on for Pat Brown, so-called “expert”…but to no avail. Oh well. Like I said, it’s like she’s been in a cave or bent on anti-pharma ways. Some people you can’t reason with. Everyone that’s tweeted, blogged, commented, tried to reach Pat Brown should be proud of ourselves. We are speaking up and not staying silent. We are setting examples for other moms out there who are silently and unnecessarily struggling.

  2. Thanks so much for the link-up. I’m still shocked and appalled about all of this a day later.

    I’m proud to be a Survivor Mama. And I’m proud to help others survive despite asinine comments made by the likes of Pat Brown.

    • Miranda,
      Yes, this is completely and utterly disturbing. Trying to put a positive spin on this like I did in my post, we can look at this as a stepping stone to improved public awareness. Nothing is ever easy, least of which is progress in something like PPD, which has been so mired with stigma due to motherhood myths and misconceptions from people who haven’t got a clue because they’ve never experienced PPD and can’t resist jumping to conclusions based on ignorance. We should all be proud to be Survivor Mamas and stand up to the likes of Pat Brown!

  3. Hi Ivy! I read about this on the blog “All work and no play Makes Mommy go something something.” Needless to say, I was appalled and sent an email directly to Pat Brown. I was not insulting or sarcastic, but simply tried to explain that as a PPD survivor, I felt her comments were harmful and ignorant. I was surprised to find a response from her to my email this morning. Unfortunately, the gist of it was that her comments were mistook and that there is no medical proof linking PPD to a chemical imbalance. Hmmm, I think there are a lot of psychiatrists in this country and other medical professionals that would beg to differ. In any case, I am happy that so many of us were willing to email/complain/voice our strong opinion on this topic. It’s amazing what we can do when we take a stand!

    • Hi Hilary,
      Thanks so much for stopping by! It’s wonderful that so many people responded and spoke up. Yes, it’s amazing that we were able to make AOLnews.com change their article in such a short time. Thanks to Twitter and the huge numbers of blogs out there today, we have accomplished what never would’ve been possible ten years ago. Let’s all make sure the progress continues steady and strong! Good for you for having emailed Pat Brown and tried to explain how wrong she really is! But, as you can see, unfortunately, she is NOT going to change her feelings on perinatal mood disorders. Some people are just that way. People like that should keep their mouths shut rather than spewing false info to the public. It’s people like that that keep the stigma in place. Shame on them for doing so!

  4. I wish PSI would make a statement about this. Depression is a treatable, diagnosable, biologically-based illness that can have a mutifactorial etiology, just as diabetes is a biologically-based illness that can have a mutlifactorial etiology. AOL should get better experts to comment on their headline articles.

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