- developing a compelling national awareness campaign for postpartum depression
- creating & distributing new and improved patient education materials for distribution by hospitals (the kind new moms won’t throw away!!)
- translating its “plain mama English” information and support into Spanish and other languages
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I just wanted to bring to your attention a couple of mother’s day tributes.
One is MotherWoman’s moving video dedicated to all the moms out there.
The other is Katherine Stone’s 3rd annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health. If you haven’t been over there yet, then please go on over there now and throughout the rest of the day until midnight. I had the honor of participating in her very first rally in 2009, a few months after I first took to blogging. Each hour on the hour, Katherine is posting a letter written by a mommy blogger or author to new moms out there. All these wonderful ladies are sharing their insight on motherhood and/or perinatal mental health. What a great way to not only observe Mother’s Day but spread awareness of perinatal mood disorders that occurs in one of out eight new mothers!
Please remember that Mother’s Day is NOT just a Hallmark occasion. I agree with MSN.com that it should be a month long and mothers should be celebrated in one way or another all month long. Do something nice for a new mom you know. Reach out to her. Give her a call and ask her how she is doing and offer her some help.
Last week, I spent 3 days (October 27-30) at the annual Postpartum Support International conference. This year, it was held in conjunction with the biennial (every 2 year) Marce Society conference, which is traditionally held in the city of the current President of the Marce Society. With the current President of the Marce Society being Katherine Wisner of the Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, this year’s conference took place in Pittsburgh.
Past PSI conferences I attended were in Jersey City, NJ and Kansas City, KS. With this year’s conference being held in conjunction with the Marce Society, there were over 400 people in attendance, including leading researchers and experts in postpartum depression (PPD). I was honored to be in the presence of so many individuals who have made such a huge difference on behalf of so many women who have suffered perinatal mood disorders.
Individuals like (note that there are too many to list here, but here are the ones that are most notable to me because I have read their research in the years I have been doing tons of reading on PPD):
- John Cox, DM, FRCPsych, FRCP, who, along with colleagues J.M. Holden and R. Sagovsky, developed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) in the 1980s. Dr. Cox was awarded the Louis Victor Marce Medal in 1986 for his pioneer research and clinical work in perinatal Psychiatry carried out in Uganda, Scotland and Staffordshire. In 2002 he was elected Secretary General of the World Psychiatric Association.
- Lee Cohen, MD, director of the Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry Clinical Research Program within the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit of the Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as an associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cohen is a national and international leader in the field of women’s mental health, and is widely published with over 200 original research articles and book chapters in the area of perinatal and reproductive psychiatry.
- David Rubinow, MD, Chair of Psychiatry and Professor of Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Rubinow is currently President of the American Neuroendocrine Society and the Society of Biological Psychiatry, has won numerous awards for his research, his clinical supervision and training, and his scientific administration, and serves on the editorial boards of six journals and has authored more than 300 scientific publications.
- Cheryl Tatano Beck, DNSc, CNM, FAAN, is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing. Dr. Beck serves on the editorial boards of 4 journals and has published over 125 scientific articles as well as 4 books.
I was one of the minority there who was not a mental, medical or public health professional, or social worker. There were 3 other young ladies there who, like me, are simply moms who want to learn more about perinatal mood disorders and find ways to help spread awareness, as well as to advocate on behalf of and provide support to other mothers. These young ladies were Katherine Stone, Lauren Hale and Amber Koter-Puline. This was my 2nd time meeting Katherine and 1st time meeting both Lauren and Amber. This was the first time all 4 of us PPD bloggers were together in one place.
Here we are:
Another highlight of the conference was the appearance of Former First Lady Mr. Rosalynn Carter as the keynote speaker and book signing of the book “WITHIN OUR REACH: Ending the Mental Health Crisis,” which she co-authored along with Susan K. Golant and Kathryn E. Cade.
There was so much information provided at the conference, but I was able to take away these 2 really important points that I would like to share with you:
- It is critical that we integrate behavioral health with medical care that is provided by those charged with the reproductive health of women. I learned there is a multi-disciplinary approach to treating women with perinatal depression comprised of a psychiatrist, obstetrician, obstetrical nurse practitioner, and psychiatric social worker at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. We REALLY need more of these throughout the country! In certain other countries, it’s the midwives and early childhood nurses–in addition to GPs–that are the front line of screeners.
- There was a presentation about the proposed changes being made regarding the treatment and screening of PPD for the DSM-5 due to be published in May 2013. During this presentation, the ballroom grew noticeably hotter as one by one members of the audience took to the microphone to state their questions and concerns. Most of them centered around the announcement that 4 weeks is the cut-off date for onset. I mean, have you heard of a more ridiculous thing than that?! That means that any screening that may occur (as not all OB/GYNs or other health professionals screen today) would only occur in the first 4 weeks postpartum, since a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) would’ve had to rear its ugly head by then. Why, then, you ask would they propose such an outlandish thing? Well, it’s because all these years the DSM-IV and all its predecessors are based purely on statistics obtained directly from research. Not doctor’s offices or hospitals or clinics. Not from data obtained from the EPDS given to the thousands of moms that give birth each year. Sounds like typical political, ahem, B.S. if you ask me….
Okay, so what does this all mean? This means that moms will not only continue to have their OB/GYNs dismiss their PPMD symptoms, but now in addition, there will be a specific cutoff of 4 weeks. Anything after 4 weeks will risk being shrugged off, as doctors will be referring to the handy dandy DSM-5 as the Bible and complacently inform these moms that they couldn’t have a PPMD because they were more than 4 weeks postpartum.
There is still opportunity to improve on the DSM-5 as it is being proposed. You can help make a positive difference. How? Well, starting in May 2011 and ending midnight of June 30, 2011, the public will be able to submit comments on the draft of the DSM-5 on the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM Development website. I will be signing up to do so, and I hope you will too. The more women who do, the better chance we have of convincing the powers that be that they need to extend the onset period to 1 year (or even 3 months would be far better than 4 weeks)! Voice your concern. Tell them why. Share your story. I know numerous women whose symptoms of PPD didn’t begin until after the 6th week. Like me, for one. Other countries who have had ancient social support customs in place for centuries have had 6-8 weeks as the period in which the new mom must be cared for. There is a reason behind that….just as there is a reason behind the Swedish model of the primary care physician (or general practitioner) performing postnatal screening between 8 and 21 weeks postpartum, with 13 weeks as peak prevalence.
To think that women who are sick with PPD will continue to be shrugged off and go untreated and allowed to suffer unnecessarily angers me to no end. We are supposed to make progress, but instead, we are more concerned about statistics obtained during very limited studies. Folks on the DSM-5 committee, this is a blatant example of not being able to see the forest for the trees.
Last Friday was Day 1 of BlogHer 10 in New York City. It was my second BlogHer conference I’ve ever attended. Last year’s conference in Chicago was my first. With the conference taking place in my own hometown–well, practically hometown since I’m there for work 5 days a week–I couldn’t NOT attend this annual conference of bloggers. This year, the number of attendees reached 2,400 at the New York Hilton. It was such an awesome experience to be in the presence of SO MANY bloggers.
This year’s conference was even more special due to the fact that it was my first time ever meeting Katherine Stone. PLUS, Katherine coordinated a photo session that night of PPD survivor mamas.
For some inspiration, here are the pics that were taken. For those who are currently struggling with a postpartum mood disorder, look closely at these smiling, lovely ladies. We each have different personalities, different life experiences, and different backgrounds and yet we share a common bond, which is that we are PPD survivor mamas! You would never think that any of us suffered a postpartum mood disorder, but we did. Each of us has survived. You will too!
Pictured in back row (L-R): Suzanne from Pretty Swell, Emily from Aprons and Heels, Alexis from depressionsandconfessions, Katherine Stone from Postpartum Progress, Morra from Women And Work, and Beth Anne from Heir to Blair.
Over at Postpartum Progress, Katherine has posted a video taken during this photo session. Please go check it out if you haven’t already done so!
Photos taken by Kim Orlandini @kimorlandini http://kimsueellen.blogspot.com.
Feels like ages ago since my last post. Anyway, I was motivated by Katherine Stone’s post from last week titled “Diverse Voices Are Important to Suffering Mothers” to write this post.
I agree 100% with Katherine in that “Different people respond to different voices and different experiences.” That’s why the more women who speak up about their postpartum depression (PPD) experiences, the more people we will reach–not just literally in terms of numbers and geographic locations, but figuratively in terms of being able to get through to all kinds of women. Katherine’s Postpartum Progress blog has over the years cultivated a huge following worldwide. She empowers women with knowledge about perinatal mood disorders. Through the information she shares, she helps women suffering from PPD feel less alone in their experiences.
Lauren Hale over at My Postpartum Voice and Amber Koter-Puline over at Beyond Postpartum are also wonderful examples of PPD bloggers who share the same goal as Katherine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….it’s these three inspiring women that have motivated me to devote my blog completely to PPD and other perinatal mood disorders. We blog with the hope there will be fewer moms out there suffering the way we had suffered. Though each one of these ladies has their own style and approach, they are all very focused on providing support.
So, what’s my angle? I always voice my own opinion on each one of my weekly blog posts. I also voice my anger in response to ignorant comments made about perinatal mood disorders, or mental health, in general. As some of my blog followers are already aware, my #1 pet peeve is behavior/remarks made out of ignorance, prejudism, condescension. This comes about as a result of how I was picked on in high school. Do I regret those days? Sure. But if it hadn’t been for my experience growing up, I probably wouldn’t be the way I am today, trying to tackle ignorant comments whenever they come up. Whether they are in the form of media attempts to educate people about PPD or blog posts (and let’s not forget comments), I am going to speak my mind and point out incorrect/ignorant statements.
My style may not be as “warm and fuzzy” as my fellow PPD bloggers, but that’s just me. I am an analytical/scientific/logical kind of person, which comes from my being a science major in college. My style or approach to blogging about PPD may not resonate with many of the mommas out there. My reaction–or shall I say anger–to ignorant comments may scare some mommas away just as easily as it may attract followers. As Katherine stated in her post: “You may not like what someone says or how they said it, but if it helps a woman who is suffering and feels alone that’s what is important. At least, that’s what is important to me.” Amen, Katherine, Amen!
Not everyone is going to like my blog, as I’m sure no one blog is going to appeal to everyone. Just like everyone is unique, every blog offers a different voice, a different experience. Just like Katherine indicated, you can always start up your own blog, if you haven’t done so already and join the growing number of women who are speaking up about their PPD experiences. Say it in your own way. After all, that was the original purpose for having a blog–to keep an online diary of your thoughts and experiences. We’ve come a long way from keeping personal diaries of one’s thoughts and feelings to be kept to yourself versus a blog, which anyone with a PC and Internet access can view in today’s digital way of life.
My latest example of tackling ignorant comments about PPD came about this past Sunday, July 4th. All I wanted to do was search for the latest news on Georgette Massi, the woman from Mahwah, NJ, who drove drunk with 3 small children in her car less than a couple months ago. There was this website that came up first when I did a search for her name on Google. Well, I did what I probably shouldn’t have done, especially on a holiday as we were getting ready to celebrate with friends, which is read the comments. There was one that had a warning flag of “Beware of possible ignorant comment and angry person behind comment.” And what did I choose to do? Reply to the comment with my typical FYI. My gut was telling me that the link to my post about the possible correlation between PPD and the rise in the number of drunk driving moms (with kids under one) would spark a negative reaction, and boy, did it do that! But I felt it was contained because the voice behind the person exchanging comments with me (not the one I addressed in my comment) sounded reasonable, relatively speaking. Then, like 2 days later (today), while writing this post and going to the site to retrieve the title and URL (which I’ve subsequently dropped from this post because that site does NOT deserve any attention whatsoever), I did what I probably shouldn’t have done, which is check to see if there were any new comments. Lo and behold, there was one. And boy, was it a doozy. This one was from the person whose comment I addressed on Sunday. There was no reason behind it. Just anger. And this coming from a PPD survivor! I couldn’t believe it. She had blinders on and had no intention of taking them off. Nah, she was not going to be open-minded, mature or intelligent. There was only one way of thinking and it was all hers, as wrong as it was. It was her way or the high way.
Well, like I said earlier in this post, there are many kinds of people out there. Some who survive experiences to be stronger, more empathetic people who want to make a positive difference for others. And there are those who survive their experiences with a crapful of anger directed at everyone else, where there is no room for reasoning. Just anger. They don’t care about anyone else. They don’t want to help anyone else. Paying it forward doesn’t exist in their vocabulary. Hey, all I can say to that is, there is such a thing as karma. What comes around, goes around.
Am I a masochist? Maybe. My friends and husband call me crazy. What I really believe is that by tackling the comments as I see them, I am in essence tackling the stigma of mental illness. It’s such a monster to have to tackle. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I’m hoping that with all our voices speaking up, we will chip away at the stigma so that women don’t have to continue suffering in silence, ashamed, embarrassed and not necessarily knowing what is happening to them. And unlike what this “PPD survivor” was ranting at me, all belligerent and everything, no, not every woman with PPD is going to know she has PPD. If that were the case we would be much ahead of where we are today! The sad truth is that not every woman is going to know she has PPD since everyone doesn’t know what the symptoms are. Many women realize there’s this stigma and keep their experience unnecessarily to themselves, hiding behind a facade of smiles when deep down inside they are crying. They want their motherhood experiences to be joyous and feel ashamed/guilty for not being able to have that experience. And then to make matters worse, not all doctors diagnose correctly.
Some of you are probably thinking “Well, looky here….Ivy finally posted this.” Yes, I know some of you who have your blog set up to receive my new blog posts have seen this title come up a few weeks ago. I was indeed planning to post this a few weeks ago, but before I had a chance to write anything, I hit “Publish” by mistake. And then of course another topic came along that I felt had to be published right away. Before I realized it, a few weeks have gone by. I finally found the opportunity to write this one up.
Why I Do What I Do
Those impassioned about certain causes usually aren’t motivated in such fashion unless they are directly impacted by a life-changing experience such as illness or death of a loved one. It takes life-altering experiences, such as cancer, postpartum depression (PPD), or surviving the death of a loved one to motivate individuals to try to make a difference in the world and to try to help others. Some are determined to help others by sharing their stories, like Brooke Shields, Marie Osmond, and Lance Armstrong. Others do what they never dreamed they would ever do, like run for United States Congress, which is what Carolyn McCarthy did after her husband was killed and her son was severely injured during the Long Island Railroad Massacre, and after the representative in her district voted against an assault weapons bill.
For me, it was anger of people’s ignorance – those who were my doctors, those to whom I’ve talked and those in the media who say stupid things – that propelled me to write a book. I was angered by the way I was treated by my doctors. Angry for no one telling me about PPD in the first place and the lack of information that is given to the public via magazines, hospital training, doctors’ offices, and television. Angry for the way society makes assumptions that all mothers have smooth and easy pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum experiences. I decided I would channel all the energy stemming from my anger and do something positive and try to help others. I would tell my story in the hopes of helping and educating as many people as possible about this silent and potentially deadly condition. I would chronicle my experience and share the horrific feelings and manifestations of PPD that I experienced, so that others can know better what to look for.
Determined to learn more about this misunderstood, underdiagnosed and undertreated illness, I joined Postpartum Support International in 2006 and attended two annual conferences since to network with and pick up the latest information from subject matter experts. Each time I sat down at the computer to write more, I felt lighter and lighter. I have never believed in keeping things to myself. It is not healthy to keep things all bottled up. Keeping things bottled up and keeping yourself so busy you don’t have time to think about things that are bothering you—these are popular tactics used to avoid having to deal with problems at hand. But there is a major price to pay when it comes to doing either. To maintain a healthy body and mind, you need to deal with the problem, rather than letting it build up over time until the brain becomes overloaded with stress, which can have mood and behavior consequences. You need to talk about whatever is bothering you either verbally or in writing.
I’m of the mindset that things happen in for a reason. If I hadn’t gone down that incredibly painful path and been angered by the idiotic rantings of Tom Cruise and angered by the lack of compassion and understanding of the medical professionals with whom I sought treatment, I would not have felt impassioned about the topic of PPD and about writing a book….or blogging, for that matter. Having my own blog has given me more courage in speaking out about my PPD experiences and what I have learned from those experiences to others.
Be the Change
If we all adapted the attitude or belief that each individual is capable of helping to bring about change, the odds would be in our favor in terms of reducing the numbers of moms suffering unnecessarily from it each and every year, and perhaps–just perhaps–lowering the PPD occurrence rate….because and repeat after me “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.” If we all just sat on our tushes, waiting for the next woman to do something to make a difference, change will continue to crawl along at a snail’s pace. Just as my experience with PPD has inspired me to write this book and set up my own blog, as well as tell people in person about my experience whenever the topic comes up, I hope your experience inspires you to try to increase awareness of this common and all-too-often ignored illness. I hope you will feel the same urge to share your experience with others, so that in the long run, there will no longer be ignorance about PPD and as a result, fewer women will suffer this debilitating illness at a time when they should be enjoying their babies. I hope you feel the same passion to help other mothers get access to the resources and treatment needed for a speedy recovery.
Be An Advocate
There is still too much ignorance out there about PPD. If you are currently suffering from PPD, consider joining the ranks of PPD advocates like Katherine Stone, Lauren Hale and Amber Koter-Puline to educate others after your recovery. Be a legislative advocate like Susan Dowd Stone, whose efforts to support the Mother’s Act sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) helped push it through recently under the Health Insurance Reform. Join Postpartum Support International and consider being a regional coordinator to provide support and local resources to PPD moms, start a blog, create a website, advocate education to expectant parents by hospitals, advocate education to all medical school students, or travel around the country to educate others about this serious condition affecting so many women, create a PPD support group, or write a book about your experience.
As long as society remains ignorant about PPD, the stigma associated with mental illnesses–particularly around a time that is supposed to be happy (i.e., childbirth)–will continue to keep mothers mouths shut and suffering unnecessarily in silence. It’s unfortunate how so many mothers suffering from PPD tend to feel ashamed for not being able to cope like all other mothers around them (not realizing that many around them may also be suffering in silence).
The more PPD survivors speak up, the more people in general will know about PPD. Then, hopefully, PPD moms will feel less afraid to speak up and seek help. PPD survivors must come together to break down that wall of silence and fight the stigma associated with PPD. Look how long it’s taken to get where we are today. If we sit there and don’t do anything, do you think change will happen on its own? Do you think research will continue full-steam ahead? I don’t think so. So, it’s up to us PPD survivors to make a difference for our fellow women.
Last but not least, and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again…..progress in destigmatization of depression and postpartum depression includes addressing ignorant remarks whenever they are heard. Simply ignoring them won’t accomplish anything, least of all public awareness. For all those who are PPD survivors, whenever you hear people say off-the-mark comments about PPD, speak up and be heard!
Help Other Moms
If you are currently suffering from PPD, consider helping other moms after your recovery. Being a warmline volunteer and/or PPD support group volunteer would be tremendously beneficial to a mother who is suffering PPD. Just think of it this way. Try thinking back to the time when you wished you had someone to talk to about your experience, someone who could understand what you were going through. Wouldn’t it have made a difference had you met a PPD survivor—a mother who has been through what you are going through and who is living proof that you too will get well?
If there is a lack of PPD or postpartum support groups near you, after you are well again, you may want to consider forming one with other PPD survivors. We need more leaders like Jane Honickman to take initiative and more organizations like Santa Barbara Postpartum Education for Parents need to exist. She also, incidently, founded Postpartum Support International. Now, this is what I call BEING THE CHANGE!
Dr. Shoshana Bennett is a 2-time survivor of undiagnosed PPD who was inspired by her experience to become an expert on PPD, having published multiple books, earning multiple degrees (2 masters degrees, a PhD and licensing as a clinical psychologist), founding one of the first postpartum groups in the country in 1987, acting as former President of Postpartum Support International, helping over 18,000 women worldwide through individual consultations, support groups and wellness seminars, traveling all over the world as guest lecturer and keynote speaker, and training medical and mental health professionals to assess and treat perinatal mood disorders. Now, this is what I call BEING THE CHANGE!
To all the moms out there, regardless of whether you are suffering from a postpartum mood disorder or not, make sure you have the opportunity to pamper yourself/be pampered. Yes, pampering. There is absolutely nothing wrong for mothers to be nurtured!!!
First and foremost, to all you moms who are currently suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, please check out this AMAZING slideshow created by my fellow blogger, Lauren Hale, author of the My Postpartum Voice blog. Her choice of pictures, her sentiments, all the way down to the accompanying music…..are perfect. You can just tell how much effort she put into that slideshow. I had the chills watching it, and I get the chills thinking about it even now as I’m posting this. Though fortunately for me my PPD was well under control by Mother’s Day 2005, thanks to the Paxil I was taking at the time, I totally know what it’s like to suffer from it. When you are suffering with PPD, you can’t smile, you can’t enjoy the things you’ve previously enjoyed, you can’t appreciate anything much at all….let alone celebrate Mother’s Day. I hope this inspirational slideshow from Lauren will help you today. This is just a moment in time. By this time next year, you WILL be able to celebrate Mother’s Day.
For some more inspiration, if you haven’t already visited the 2nd Annual Mother’s Day Rally over at Postpartum Progress, please do so. Periodically check throughout the day because Katherine Stone’s mission is to post one letter every hour on the hour to new moms. These letters are written in all different styles and by women of all different backgrounds but with one thing in common…they want to help support, encourage and educate new moms out there, and help them get through one of the most challenging and exciting times of their lives.
Please do other moms you know a favor and tell them about all these letters written to support and educate the new mom. If I had had access to this wealth of information BEFORE I had my baby, my own postpartum experience would most likely have been better. It’s unfortunate that I don’t get a second shot at this.
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!
Okay, so what I originally thought was going to be a “quickie” post about this time last night turned out to be a longer one that I’d anticipated. Actually took me about an hour to write. Whaddya expect….my brain was fried and acting more slowly than normal, what can I say?
Anyway, here I am again. This time, with a true “quickie” post. I just wanted to bring your attention to the fact that Katherine Stone and Susan Stone–both of whom were instrumental in their support and spreading awareness about the Mother’s Act, which just recently passed–will be joining Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) at a press conference they are holding on just that topic. Click here to read a Huffington Post article written by Representative Bobby Rush titled “Melanie’s Story: How One Woman’s Tragic Encounter With Post Partum Psychosis Led to Landmark Women’s Health Legislation.”
Others in attendance will be Carol Blocker, mother of Melanie Blocker Stokes whom the bill was named after, as well as representatives from ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) and the APA (American Psychological Association).
For those who are in the DC area and would like to attend the press conference, it’s starting at 11:30am tomorrow, Thursday, May 6th, at the Senate Swamp, Upper Senate Park (next to the Russell Senate Office Building). The rain location is S-120 in the U.S. Capitol.
Gee, if only I lived a tad closer, I would absolutely be there! This is history in the making and definitely something that PPD advocates and survivors like myself are thrilled about! I was able to attend the press conference held by Senator Menendez this time last year, which was held in New Jersey–also right around Mother’s Day.
Just a quickie post from me today, as it’s been a while since my last post and we’re already 4…um, now 5 days into May. Not to mention the fact that it’s already midnight and I am, needless to say, quite pooped.
It’s May. May is many things to many people. First of all, it’s when spring weather finally arrives. It’s the month when my 2nd favorite flower, the lilac, blooms in full glory. Hurray! 🙂 My favorite flower is the hydrangea…gotta wait a couple more months for those to appear. Here’s a picture of some lovely lilacs taken at the NJ State Botanical Garden (aka Skylands) this past Sunday.
It’s also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, National Teen Self-Esteem Month, and Mental Health Month. Bet you didn’t know any of that, now, did you? And I bet you didn’t know that on April 22, 2010, the State of California passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 105 (ACR 105), a resolution that designates May as Perinatal Depression Awareness Month.
Let’s not forget that this Sunday is Mother’s Day. Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress will be hosting her 2nd annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health. I had the honor of participating in last year’s rally. Each hour on the hour, Katherine will post a letter written by a mommy blogger or author to new moms out there. So, get ready to read a lot of great stuff, as all these wonderful ladies will share their insight on motherhood and/or perinatal mental health. What a great way to observe Mother’s Day and spread awareness of perinatal mood disorders, eh?!
Mother’s Day is NOT just a Hallmark occasion. All moms deserve a break that day. So, if one of your friends, neighbors or colleagues is a new mom, reach out to her. Give her a call and ask her how she is doing and offer her some help. Bring her family dinner. Offer to babysit while she goes out to get her hair done and/or manicure and/or pedicure. Provide her some company (if in fact she’d like that).
Yanno, I wasn’t quite sure what to post this week…that is, until I saw Katherine Stone’s post over on the University of Southern California’s Reporting on Health today.
Let me preface my post by saying that awareness is an essential prerequisite to destigmatizing postpartum mood disorders–including postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum traumatic stress disorder, postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis. As I’ve said before, there has been more progress in public awareness in the past decade than all the years before that combined. However, for every 2 steps made in the right direction, the media knocks us back by one BIG step. Yes, the media. This is why progress has been so painfully, unnecessarily and maddeningly slow. Nothing gets me more steamed than people who–whether they mean to or not–say things that only contribute to, rather than dispel, the stigma of postpartum mood disorders.
You’ve seen me post about people who make ignorant comments about PPD. You’ve also seen me post about ABC’s Private Practice’s failure at depicting PPD in an episode last February. You’ve also seen me–along with many other PPD survivors and advocates–sign a letter that Katherine Stone wrote to address a Time article that missed its mark with respect to PPD.
This time, it’s a failed attempt on the part of Discovery Channel to accurately educate the public regarding postpartum mood disorders. As part of Discovery Health Channel’s Baby Week, it aired a one-hour documentary titled “Postpartum Nightmares.” Personally, I feel a bit turned off by the title of this show. I’m not sure how many viewers would want to watch something educational that has a title like that. For the viewers who did tune in, I’m fairly confident the documentary served to confuse them more than educate them. What do I mean? Well, just put it this way. Just like printed media like newspapers and magazines are all about attention-seeking headlines just to sell more copies, I believe Discovery Health Channel came up with the “Postpartum Nightmares” title to get viewers to watch the show. Consistent with the title, there seemed to be this over-emphasis on symptoms of other postpartum mood disorders without educating viewers of the different types of perinatal mood disorders and their respective symptoms. The end result is that people walk away from the show thinking “Oh my gosh, if that’s what it’s like to have a baby, then I better not have one!” Or “All moms with PPD end up either having intrusive thoughts about, or actually succeed at, harming their babies,” which is completely wrong. The end result is no better than the vast majority of people out there who believed, or still believe, that Andrea Yates suffered from PPD–when in actuality, she suffered from postpartum psychosis.
Katherine points out that subject matter experts on perinatal mood disorders were consulted, and three PPD surivors were allowed to tell their stories, which is all great. But when can we expect to see a TV show, documentary, or movie that succeeds at ACCURATELY telling the public about the different kinds of postpartum mood disorders that new mothers can experience? When are they going to forget those attention-getting headlines and sensationalistic plots and depictions based on misconceptions and stereotypes–or what Katherine points out as horror movie editing, images and music, empty rocking chair theme, zooming in on a “gleaming, sharp and serrated knife” in the woman’s hand–and focus instead on facts that are based on the knowledge of experts in the field and actual women’s stories without the temptation to exaggerate scenarios to grab the viewers’ attention.
There are so many women out there suffering from PPD with what I refer to as “non-sensational” symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, loss of appetite, panic attacks, inability to focus, loss of interest in most of your usual activities, inability to laugh, and overall impaired functioning. Those were my symptoms. Those are the symptoms of many of the women whose stories I’ve read about and of those who have shared on my blog. Why can’t media focus on these symptoms? What have they got to lose? Oh, wait….without a sensationalistic title or filming techniques, they would be risking a lack of viewership. Hey, even if the usual PPD symptoms sound “boring,” I am waiting for the day that some creative, intelligent and empathetic type–one who cares more about public awareness and destigmatization of mood disorders than the revenues they generate–will depict (based PURELY on facts from experts on the topic) the real deal about the different postpartum mood disorders (including PPD, postpartum and postpartum psychosis)–in a TV show, documentary or movie…oh, and cut out the dramatic, stereotypical effects.
I CAN’T WAIT.
Hope all you moms out there had a very Happy Mother’s Day! If you haven’t gone over to Postpartum Progress to check out all 24 letters written by book authors and bloggers, please do so now! To be part of such an effort and to be among so many fantastic authors was such an honor. And it all would not have been possible had it not been for the dedication of Katherine Stone who spent her entire Mother’s Day making sure each one of these letters was posted on the hour, every hour, all day long. These letters are written in all different styles and by women of all different backgrounds but with one thing in common…we want to help support, encourage and educate new moms out there, and help them get through one of the most challenging and exciting times of their lives.
To see my letter to new moms, click here. In my letter, I provide the brand-new mom with advice on 3 key areas I wish I had known more about going into motherhood: Sleep, Support, Breastfeeding.
Please do other moms you know a favor and tell them about all these letters written to support and educate the new mom. If I had had access to this wealth of information BEFORE I had my baby, my own postpartum experience would most likely have been better. It’s unfortunate that I don’t get a second shot at this.
To all new moms out there, get ready for Katherine Stone’s Mother’s Day Rally over at Postpartum Progress on Mother’s Day!
She has assembled 24 women–book authors, therapists, mommy bloggers, PPD bloggers– who will each be writing a letter addressed to you, the new mom. Every hour on the hour for 24 hours, a different letter will be posted to provide you with advice, inspiration and encouragement. Whether you are currently suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, feeling anxious from being a first-time mom and needing support, or about to have a baby and reading up on what to expect as a new mom, you should expect to receive a wealth of information that will help you.
I am thrilled and honored to be part of this effort to provide new mothers support on a day that is dedicated to celebrating mothers in this country. If only I had had this kind of information made available to me when I was expecting my daughter! Katherine Stone will be bringing this virtual community of women dedicated to helping mothers right to you, wherever you may be, with just a few keystrokes…..this is what the country needs more of (in addition to groups within your local communities). My hope is that, over time, there will be more mother-focused support groups and women’s reproductive mental health services in each of our communities all over the country, so that there will be fewer moms out there suffering at a time that should be happy.