Please raise your hand if you think mental health stigmas in this country no longer exist. Don't worry, I'll wait.
Why didn't you raise your hand? Oh, that's right, because that was really dumb of me to ask. OF COURSE we still have stigmas around mental health. If we didn't, why did you struggle for so long to ask for help? It's hard! We're afraid of what a doctor will tell us, what our families and friends will think and that recovery won't work.
Next question won't be so difficult. I'll make it multiple choice.
What is the #1 killer of infants and children in America? A - SIDS, B - Birth Defects, C - the hands of parents........don't worry, I'll wait.
If you guessed B, you're correct. If you guessed C, you are highly misinformed. Here, let me help you.
Being diagnosed with a perinatal mood disorder does not mean you will hurt your child. It does not mean you are at risk of hurting yourself or others. It means you need help, and with the right help you can recover and live a fulfilling life of joy and happiness with your friends and family. It means you're struggling more than others, that you need someone to listen more than before, that you need to be taken care of and that you need time to heal. It does not mean you are crazy. It does not mean you don't love your children or your spouse.
Last night, the March of Dimes hosted a Twitter chat about postpartum depression in new moms in the NICU (bravo to them for starting the conversation, by the way). Throughout this conversation a comment (not made by the March of Dimes) was made that not only shocked me, but it hurt me. It hit home for me. It stated that postpartum depression was the leading cause of death in infants in our country. Well, the good news is that, according to these people, stigmas on mental health no longer exist. Thank goodness. Because now I have been classified as a number one suspect for murdering my child, but I no longer need to fear asking for help or seeking help. Pardon my language, but only a true idiot could make a statement such as this.
It's hard to write about this. It's hard to even think about. It angers me beyond belief. Through my own recovery I have met countless recovered moms who adore their children. I have met women that are currently struggling and counseled them, helped them find help, and assure them things will be okay. They're scared and they want to know what to expect, what the doctor will say, what to do if their doctor doesn't believe them, and there are times when I struggle to convince them IT WILL BE OKAY! It will be okay. But as long as statements like these are made, women (and men) are only instilled with more fear. Fear that now the life of their child is at risk. I'm not naive, I know not every person recovers and there are times when it ends in tragedy, but I also know better than to think that every woman is putting the life of her child in danger because she isn't happy anymore.
I am asking you to help. I am asking you to reach out to the Office of Women's Health and ask them for their help. We need to keep the conversation going, but more importantly, we need to keep the conversation going in the right direction. We need to make strides forward, not backwards.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Stone, PPI. You can read her original reaction to this event here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-depression-stigma