I went from blogging once in two months to 8 times so far this month! With Maternal Mental Health Month a little less than a week away, a lot of fundraising, training and public awareness events are being prepped to happen throughout May. Another reason to love this time of year….hello spring!
Okay, so the title of my post is “Recent PPD Successes and Failures in the Media.” There were 2 things in the media that caught my attention on my Facebook feed today that motivated me to blog once again. One is a success and one is a failure. If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you would know that one of my favorite things to blog about are successful and failed attempts at depicting new mothers suffering from a mood disorder in the media, like my recent post about “Black-ish.”
Let’s start with the SUCCESS……
On this morning’s Megyn Kelly TODAY a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) survivor, Ashley Abeles, shared her experience. The segment also included brief appearances by Dr. Catherine Birndorf and Paige Bellembaum who are the Medical Director and Program Director, respectively, of The Motherhood Center of New York. The Motherhood Center provides support services for new/expectant moms and treatment for PMADs. I met these ladies from the Motherhood Center at previous Postpartum Support International conferences. If you missed the show, you can watch it here. We need more moms sharing their PMAD experiences on shows like this! Experiences kind of like my own that, as her husband explains, isn’t “headline-grabbing” material involving the tragic death of the mother and/or baby. Because guess what, the vast majority of PMADs experienced by new mothers are NOT headline-grabbing material. They’re mothers suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, weight loss and/or intrusive/obsessive thoughts who need medication and/or therapy to recover. Yes, severe postpartum depression (PPD) can cause a mother to feel so depressed that she just wants to disappear or her baby would be better off without her since she can’t feel joyous like a new mother should, but postpartum psychosis is too-often confused with and lumped under PPD (as a catch-all term) by both the general public and doctors alike. Yes, doctors! Also, PPD is not the same as the baby blues and even today, doctors still mix up the two! We’ve come a long way since I had PPD when it comes to information in the news, in publications, on the Internet and in social media. But we still have a LONG way to go.
And here’s the FAILURE……
The movie “Tully” starring Charlize Theron. A Motherly post by Diana Spalding titled “We’ve seen Tully– and we’ve got some real concerns” it seems yet another movie director/producer has failed to do their homework about PPD before coming up with the screenplay and releasing it. What every movie director/producer or TV show director/producer needs to do before even contemplating a movie or TV show about PPD is consult with Postpartum Support International. This organization is the leading authority on maternal mental health matters and should ALWAYS be consulted to ensure the right information is incorporated into the movie/show plot. “Tully” attributes the bizarre experiences of Tully (i.e., hallucinations she has of Marlo, frantic baking and cleaning late into the night, impulsive behavior that leads to her car crash, suicidal ideation) to PPD. However, her behavior is actually attributable to postpartum psychosis, hence this movie spreads misinformation about what PPD really is. Her talk of suicide is brushed off by her husband, which I can see happening in the real world when loved ones fail to “get it” and ignore the mother’s serious need for help. While this is a movie and movies don’t necessarily have to educate–after all, this is not a documentary–it should at least get terms right (postpartum psychosis, NOT PPD!) and it should try to mention at some point that yes, the new mother who’s obviously not well and diagnosed, albeit incorrectly, with PPD needs help! Maybe put some kind of disclaimer at the beginning or end of the movie like you sometimes see at the beginning or end of a TV show. Something along the lines of:
“Approximately one out of seven new mothers suffers from a postpartum mood disorder. If you are a new mother that is experiencing any of the following symptoms: insomnia, crying/sadness for more than 2 weeks, lack of appetite, sudden weight loss, rage, hopelessness, lack of interest in the baby, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, thoughts of harming the baby or yourself, please know that you are not alone, what you are experiencing is not your fault, and you will recover if you get the right treatment. Contact Postpartum Support International at 800-944-4773 or visit http://www.postpartum.net