Those involved in Mental Health Awareness Month have done a lot to break the stigma that exists about people living with mental health disorders. Yet, one disorder is the target of extensive social shaming and victim blaming: Postpartum Depression.
The cause of Postpartum Depression is not entirely clear; the research points to a combination of genetics, history of mental health issues and the drastic changes in neurotransmitters involved with pregnancy and delivery. As with all other mental health disorders, it is not the patient’s choice to have the condition. Nevertheless, many moms with Postpartum Depression report receiving judgmental comments and social pressures from family, friends, strangers and even those in the medical community. Psychiatrist Jean Kim exposes how these unrealistic demands and expectations placed on mothers can lead to tragic repercussions in her article “Postpartum Stigma: Why My Patient Committed Suicide”. Dr. Kim noted that several of her peers in the mental health field would often dismiss their patients’ Postpartum Depression symptoms, viewing them as someone who was just complaining. Many of these patients also received no support from their family and friends who would judge them for their symptoms. Unfortunately for one of Dr. Kim’s patients, the pressures combined with her severe depression caused her to take her life.
We all can do something to further understanding on this very real disorder that is effecting up to 18% of new moms. First, we all must abandon this unrealistic stereotype that mothers are perfect, self-sacrificing beings. New moms need to know that it’s alright to feel different emotions other than bliss when they bring home their new born. Women who experience the symptoms of Postpartum Depression need to feel comfortable voicing their concerns without fear of judgement from their loved ones or their doctors. Support and compassion, not ridicule and judgement, is the key to improving the lives of those who live with Postpartum Depression.