Today, February 5th, is the #DayofLight, a social media driven effort to throw the spotlight on depression and mental illness and get people talking about it. For more information on #DayofLight, see this blog post which inspired me to get involved or check out the hashtag #DayofLight on Twitter.
Depression has had a big impact on my family over the years and in recent times, I have myself been treated for postnatal depression (PND or PPD). There is still a stigma about depression. Mothers worry that they might be judged to be bad parents if they seek help for depression. Others get concerned because insurance companies will still penalise you for having been treated for mental health issues. And, of course, the nature of depression is that those in its throes are not meeting lots of people and talking about their depression – covering up and avoiding interaction with others can both be symptoms.
But it shouldn’t be this way. Depression is common. It is not something to be ashamed of. And seeking help for depression or mental health issue of any kind is a positive thing in so many ways. Insurance companies should give one a discount for being proactive and seeking treatment for depression as this is far healthier than not doing so and I don’t think there are many people who will not be affected by depression at some point in their lives.
One area I find really interesting is the neuro-psychology of infant development (for more on this subject, the book ‘Why Love Matters’ by Sue Gerhardt is both fascinating and slightly terrifying as a parent). So when I recognised that I was struggling to connect with my baby, and was fulfilling their physical needs without being emotionally present for them, I sought help in an attempt to prevent the depression from damaging my child. I feel all new mothers should be encouraged to not just speak up about any possible depression, but to seek help if they feel this might possibly be an issue for them, for the sake of their baby, asap. The exhaustion and emotional shock of new parenthood can be extremely hard to distinguish from depression and presumably can have the same impact. I would hope this might make mothers feel more positive about seeking help for PND. Perhaps not. But then I find all this science fascinating, which helps in dealing with the endless parental guilt of f***ing your kids up!
For my postnatal research topic as part of my Developing Doulas course, I choose postnatal mental health. I’ll put the info I put together then up as a series of blogs.