[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom who wants us to be more direct when we’re talking to new moms about postpartum depression. Her points are very valid and very helpful. -Jenna]
Today I’m giving you permission to be intrusive.
There’s such a stigma around postpartum depression and mental health issues that people won’t even ask about it directly. We have no problem asking someone for an update on their back pain, if they have a cold when they sneeze, or encouraging them to see a doctor when sick. Why aren’t we the same way with mental health?
My challenge to you
Ask people directly. Don’t take a “step back” to let them “get settled with the baby” unless told to. Don’t beat around it by making a joke—all you will get is a nervous laugh and mistrust in return.
Here are just some of the examples of hints and jokes about mental health said to me between M’s birth and diagnosis.
“Wow, a house, baby, marriage, new job…aren’t those all at the top of some checklist of mental health stressors?”
“That’s a lot of change! Those things are all on those mental health inventories!”
“Are you feeling back to normal?”
“If you don’t feel like yourself in a couple weeks, you need to tell me.”
“It’s just the baby blues. You’ll get over it.”
None of these directly address postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders. Nor are they directly asked if I am experiencing it.
Not being asked directly made it easier for me to hide in my shame and delay getting help.
I’m sure some of you are thinking right now that as a mature, responsible adult, I’m responsible for advocating for my own needs. You are right—to an extent.
However, some people experiencing depression are not capable of self-advocacy. It’s just part of the sickness. Besides, with all the pressure to be perfect, what new mom wants to admit they don’t have it all together?!
To all the folks who may be feeling guilty for not saying anything or recognizing a loved one needed help, it’s okay. What new moms need is different for everyone, and everyone has their own way of giving support. I’m just saying next time, ask directly about postpartum depression. Here are some examples:
“It’s quite common for moms to continue to feel down, depressed, anxious, or just not themselves after giving birth. Do you feel this way?”
“Are you experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression?”
“Lately I’ve noticed *insert behavior here*. Do you feel like you might be experiencing a change in your mental health?”
Finally, when someone does disclose to you, make them feel affirmed, loved, and help them find help.