As women, as mothers, it’s time to get angry. Angry that 1 in 5 women suffer from postpartum depression. That’s more than 950,000 women in the United States each year. In Lane County, it’s 1 in 4.
Get angry that despite the prevalence of postpartum depression, few will seek treatment. Angry that well-meaning friends and family tell us that our babies are healthy so we should be happy, that our feelings are “not that bad.” Angry that we are taught to feel ashamed or guilty that we are not happy. Angry that children of mothers with untreated postpartum depression are more likely to show less expressive language, have delayed motor skills and receive fewer preventive healthcare services such as well-visit checkups.
As men, as fathers, it’s time to get angry. Angry that our culture perpetuates a myth that men can’t suffer from postpartum depression. Angry that 14 percent of fathers experience postpartum depression, and half of fathers with a partner suffering from postpartum depression also experience symptoms. Angry that society pressures our fathers to “man up” and ignore their feelings. Angry that the medical community is less likely to correctly diagnose depression in men than in women. Angry that children of depressed fathers have more emotional and behavioral problems.
Now is the time to allow anger and frustration to empower us to create change. We need to start demanding more for our mothers, for our fathers, for ourselves. May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, and we can use this opportunity – and our anger – to advocate for better support for families struggling with prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety.
Helping more than 950,000 families each year sounds daunting, and it’s easy to get lost in the enormity of it all. Through compassion and love, we can all take little steps and do our part to make a difference in the lives of just one mother: your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend or even your own mother.
Start a conversation. “Did you suffer from postpartum depression? Or know someone who did?” Break the silence. Talk about it. Reach out to new parents, share your experiences and let them know they are not alone. By starting the conversation, you will also reach a new level of healing.
Volunteer. We are fortunate to live in a community with access to resources for new parents, particularly those struggling with prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety. In Lane County, we have WellMama, a nonprofit organization offering free support services. WellMama, and other organizations like it, can only thrive with help from volunteers. Even if you have just five minutes to give this month, you can post flyers, write a thank-you card to a donor or participate in a focus group.
Donate. Funding for maternal mental health services is scarce and inadequate. Nonprofit organizations rely on donations to sustain basic services that support men and women in our community.
Join us. Participate in community events throughout the year to raise awareness about maternal mental health.
If you are struggling with postpartum depression, whether you are a mother or a father, know that you are not alone. Talk to us. We’re listening.
Mandy Lindgren has volunteered with WellMama since August 2012 and has a passion for supporting women and their families. WellMama offers support groups and a warmline for those suffering from postpartum depression. Visit the website or call the warmline at 1-800-896-0410. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore our site or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org