Postpartum Depression Resources for Different Religious Faiths

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Lastweek over at O My Family, Allison took on the topic of religion and postpartum depression. As an evangelical Christian, she has not been helped by those who would have her believe that her PPD is simply a moral failing:

"Often when (if indirectly) criticizingor minimizing the validity of the use of anti-depressants for the treatment of depression, statements such as 'Find your healing in Christ', 'Medicine only masks the problem,' or 'Only Christ can restore your joy' are made. Depending on their context, these statements are potentially harmful (and well, the 2nd one is always harmful because it’s not true). Spoken to a friend who needs help seeing through the darkness of depression and then followed up by a sincere offer to help her find the resources she needs, they are good; Christ is the healer, He is the source of all true joy. However, it breaks my heart to have read these statements verbatim on a Christian mother’s blog series on depression no less than a few months ago. When left out there in the cyber universe as blanket statements, they feel like condemnation to the depression sufferer who is feeling helpless. They leave him or her without an actual, tangible step to take toward healing.

They make a 23-year-old new mother in Minnesota sit for months on end in a very dark place because she knows she needs to find her joy in Christ but she doesn’t know how and trying harder isn’t working."

Allison isn't the only one. Psych Central did a story back in 2008 on research that found that more than 32 percent of Christians who went to their church to get help for a mental illness were told they simply had a spiritual problem, even though these were people who had been clinically diagnosed. While that study focused on Christians, I imaginethis experience may be true for women who suffer PPD no matter the religion. Among those who believe, there will always be people who think a woman with postpartum depression is simply not centered enough in her religion or close enough to God or Allah. That makes me sad. As I wrote in a past piece onGod and PPD:

"I know that PPD is NOT a spiritual failing. Does anyone really imagine that if Jesus were here sitting across the table from us he would say "It's your own fault for not praying hard enough"? In my mind, I felt the God I believe in put His arms around me and tell me it would be OK, that I needed to believe I would get better, and that my recovery could include spiritual counseling and/or therapy and/or medication. Whatever it took to get better and be the kind of mom He wanted me to be. I think that whatever higher power you believe in would do the same."

For those of you to whom faith matters, I thought it would be helpful to sharepertinent resources. I am aware of a few positive resources from various faiths on postpartum depression -ones that recognize PPD and related illnesses as real and that accept that medical helpmay be necessary. If you know ofresourcesfor other faiths, PLEASE let me know so I can also list them here.

Christianity

Living Beyond Postpartum Depression: Help & Hope for the Hurting Mom & Those Around Her by Jerusha Clark

The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained Me During Postpartum Depression by Sue McRoberts

Mental Health Ministries

Out of the Valley Ministries Christian PPD Support

Judaism

Sparks Center, NY: Article from Rabbi Abrham Twerski MD, Torah scholar and psychiatrist (pg. 2)

Delivery From Darkness: A Jewish Guide to Prevention & Treatment of Postpartum Depression by Baruch Finkelstein

Nitza: The Israel Center for Maternal Health (their website doesn't seem to be working at the moment)

Mormonism

LDS.org: Managing Postpartum Depression

Behind the Smile: My Journey Out of Postpartum Depressionby Marie Osmond (not sure how much this book focuses on her faith, but I thought I'd list it here)

Photo credit: © Horticulture – Fotolia

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. Katherine – Oh, what a post! I didn't reveal my depression to anyone I went to church with (until way after the fact), but I did spend hours on end praying and crying and praying and crying. I had NO idea how to make anything happen except to just plead to God that He make it better.
    Praying more and trying harder didn't work. Taking advantage of the well-trained professionals God already had in my life DID work. And I have been grateful to God for them and my ability to use my situation to speak out to others who are still in the dark depths of depression.
    I'm so glad I never heard that message about a spiritual crisis because I may have felt even worse, if that was possible. Thanks so much for bringing this to light.

  2. this is such an important topic to talk about. so many people don't even realize the amount of pressure organized religion puts on people to strive for perfection. i know the guilt i felt at not being able to be perfect was almost overpowering when i was dealing with the worst of my ppd, and i can only be thankful that no religious fundamentalist made it their crusade to assure me that prayer alone would heal me. i truly believe in the healing power of faith and prayer, but i also believe that getting help when help is needed isn't due to a lack of faith.
    thank you for addressing such an important subject, and doing it so respectfully.

  3. Thank you for writing this post and for providing resources. I believe I read the blog series you are referring to and I left my comments to the author before unsubscribing to her blog. How is taking medication for depression any different that a diabetic taking insulin? These medications both restore the levels of chemicals needed for your body to function correctly. I found my faith and prayer were critical to my recovery, but just as much so was the medication.

  4. This is such an incredible post. I too went to my church for help and was told it was a spiritual problem. After doing everything I could possibly imagine and the thoughts and feelings just got worse, that is when I had my complete breakdown and had to go to the hospital, because in my mind, if it was spiritual, and it is not getting better after everything I have done, there was no hope. I sunk into a deep dark hole. It has been 8 months since my breakdown, 3+ years since my daughters birth and I am still on the road to recovery. But knowing that it is NOT a spiritual issue, but rather a medical one, has given me the freedom to get the help that I need. What a journey this has been!

  5. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Leigh,
    I just hate that you didn't get the loving support you needed (and DESERVED) from your church. It is definitely not a spiritual failing on your part that you had PPD, I promise! I'm glad you see that now.

  6. I'm muslim and had post partum two years ago with my 4th child. Never had it before then. I remember when I told the Sheiks( kinda like pastors) wife that I needed help. They made me feel so small like I wasn't a practicing muslim and said stuff like "you don't need those pills" or "they are just going to make things worse" or "its all in your head. You just need to pray more, pray harder". I t was like saying You're not a believer in God because you have this issue. I was devastated. I went looking for support d was dragged down even more. I even bought a book from their library and even in the book it blamed "the devil or spirits " and insisted I needed to pray more. or pray certain prayers. Thing was I prayed and prayed and prayed til I could barely move or speak. Did everything I was told to and it didn't help at all. I never went back to that mosque after that day. It felt like they made things worse on me. I felt like I was being told I'm not a "Real " muslim or a true "believer" or I was simply "weak".

  7. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Oh Amina, I'm so sorry that happened. I wish I had some supportive Muslim resources for you on postpartum depression. I'm sure there are some, it's just that I'm not aware of them yet.
    Anybody?

  8. I have a fair amount of experience with resources on psychiatry and psychology. There isn't as much support as there should be in the Church (something I have noticed is true with physical illness as well; there is a disturbing movement towards natural medicine being the only "appropriate" medicine for Christians). On the other hand, that attitude is there in part because there is an extremely hostile attitude in much of the psychological community towards fundamentalist or evangelical Protestants and conservative or traditional Catholics. I've been told by counselors that I was just addicted to my faith. To even go to a counselor I usually have to see signs and support groups all over their office for things I am morally opposed to. And then they don't recognize things as worthy of mental health treatment that they should (like post-abortive syndrome). I believe in objective truth- most of them don't. It's very hard to feel these people are going to be able to help me when this is the case. They say that it's a "medical problem" and then spend half the session implicitly stating how if you would just let go of this or that aspect of your faith or if you just weren't so narrow minded as to be unwilling to try Eastern meditation or embracing your inner spiritual power or hypnosis, etc. then you would be better. The clinic where I see my psychiatrist advertises stuff on Eastern meditation and yoga all the time, but they would never advertise a Christian prayer group. I go there because he is wonderful and we have a very good understanding, but the environment is definately not Christian friendly (of course, some of this I'm sure is colored by my state, which isn't either. :) )
    Just to say that it's a little bit of a problem on both sides of the fence.

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