So Buzzfeed just put out this emotional video about moms with postpartum depression. Let’s talk about the great things about this video. Lead with a compliment, when you want to be critical, right?
It takes four different women, which I liked. It highlighted different experiences. A lot of times people think of postpartum depression as just being weepy. I loved that these women talked about feeling no connection, feeling emotionally numb, feeling out of control. Perinatal mood disorders run the gamut and it does a great job in educating the public that your depression may look different. Take this article for example – this woman didn’t even know she had a perinatal mood disorder. In my case, I had to google “strange postpartum depression symptoms” before I realized that I was suffering from both prenatal* and postpartum depression.
I adore the video’s message about the support system. Yes, yes, yes! Support systems are so critical to moms. They truly help moms ‘hang in there’ while they get treatment for perinatal depression. Understanding that you are not alone and that other women feel the same way is so crucial to the recovery process.
It was done in a beautiful way, with the background abstract art of the women in sorrow while they tearfully told their story. The music helped emphasize how devastating and isolating perinatal depression can be.
So, here’s what I didn’t like. Not to be that nitpicky person, but I think this is kind of important, especially since there’s SUCH a huge stigma surrounding mental health and clinical depression**.
First of all, they didn’t distinguish prenatal depression from postpartum depression. They failed to use the term perinatal depression, which encompasses both sets of mood disorders. Prenatal depression is a disorder that very few people don’t know anything about. Using the term prenatal or perinatal depression is vital. This is huge for so many reasons:
We need more research on prenatal depression. More research equals better information on what medication (IF NEEDED) women can use during their pregnancy. Have a history of mental illness? Did your doctor tell you to go off your meds to get pregnant? Yeah, that might be terrible advice. Of course, we need more research and better support for all aspects of perinatal depression, but so many people get caught unaware by prenatal depression because there’s nothing in the news about it.
Why did I bring it up? Because the the first woman tells the story that as soon as she got pregnant, she felt in a bad mood. She may have had prenatal depression.
My biggest issue though is the lack of discussion on therapy and medication when the women discussed how they overcame the illness. I am by NO means saying that everyone with postpartum depression or perinatal mood disorders needs medication or therapy…but many do. Let’s be intellectually honest here. We have this stigma in the US (and probably other countries) that if you need medication for mental illness, you’re weak or feeble-minded. We tell people to just ‘snap out of it’ or ‘just start exercising’. Maybe none of these women needed therapy or medication, but I really feel like Buzzfeed did a bit of a disservice for mental health awareness. Perinatal depression can very quickly get out of control if left untreated. Intentional or not, Buzzfeed created the impression that by exercising, meeting up with other moms and hanging in there, perinatal depression will get better.
Much more powerful? Helping women understand the triggers that might indicate medication and/or therapy might be necessary. Allowing women to know that if they need to see a counselor or get on an antidepressant, they aren’t alone. They’re not weak or bad mothers if they can’t just ‘snap out of it’ by waiting it out, exercising or meeting up with other moms.
I’m not saying that these moms’ experiences weren’t real. I think that these women suffered terribly. I’m so glad that they are coming out of the shadows and sharing their experiences. It’s wonderful. I liked just about all aspects of this clip. But I think this really showcases the more subtle way that our society perceives mental illness and how we talk about it.
I’m probably sensitive to this because I was told to ‘snap out of it’, or ‘just get a different job and you’ll feel better’ or ‘have you tried exercising? Maybe that will help’. Those types of statements are dangerous – because they can minimize a very real and very deadly illness. I’m not being melodramatic when I say ‘deadly‘ either.
Furthermore, the statement that ‘it will get better’ which one of the moms makes is something that I repeat to my mom friends who have perinatal depression. When you’re clinically depressed, you simply can not believe you ‘will get better’ because the depression has created a distorted reality in your brain. It’s why some moms get to the point where they feel that suicide is the only option. I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but I think there is something more subtle here. The way it’s edited in the video, you get a subconscious feeling that you just have to keep going and it will get better. That may not be the case if you need medication to correct the chemical imbalances from the breastfeeding or other hormones. It’s important to acknowledge, so that if it isn’t getting better, women can be proactive and get the help that they need.
Hope that wasn’t too nitpicky…but I felt it needed to be said.
*I knew I had prenatal depression, but I didn’t realize how severe it was because I was oblivious to some of the symptoms that manifested in other ways.
**Perinatal depression is clinical depression onset by pregnancy or postpartum