We asked Elspeth Pitman who is a lecturer at Norland College to talk to us about Postnatal Depression. A topic which is often difficult to talk about. There are also some great websites to refer to if need further support or information.
Let’s get talking! – A reflection on Postnatal Depression. Even though I have attended many training days and touched upon this subject in much of my work when teaching and training, when I was asked by Pocketnannies to write something about postnatal depression my initial thought was ‘I am not medically trained in postnatal depression and should I be writing a blog on it?’ But then I realised I was doing exactly what we should not do by shying away from talking about the topic. The only way we can help more parents to seek support and overcome postnatal depression is by talking about it and recognising that it is a topic that affects so many families.
In my line of work and amongst my friends I am coming across more and more people who appear to be suffering with postnatal depression. However, many parents do not report to know that they can, or indeed should, seek help for these feelings they are experiencing. According to a report published by the charity 4Children 58% of new mothers with postnatal depression do not seek help. In the same report, 4Children suggest that 3 in every 10 new mothers experience postnatal depression, but 60% of mothers do not think it is serious enough to seek medical help and 33% are too scared to seek help. This is sad in a country in which we have access to free healthcare and a number of charities specifically set up in order to support parents and families suffering with postnatal depression.
Sadly in the UK I think we still have the mentality that we should show our ‘stiff upper lip’ at all times and we do not readily talk about how we are feeling. We have many phrases in the English language which we use to greet each other such as ‘how do you do?’ or even ‘how are you?’ following which we do not really expect a reply. We would probably be quite shocked, even with friends, if they then started to tell us how they really felt.
As a society we have put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be independent people, to have successful careers and take control of our lives. We even foster this with our children from a very young age – believing that early independence is the key to success. There is nothing wrong with fostering independence in children and society, but are we allowing equal amounts of time for building relationships and communities in which we talk to each other and therefore support emotional and mental wellbeing in each other?
I am hearing of more and more postnatal depression in mothers and fathers who are desperate to be the amazing parents they see all around them on TV, via social media and in magazines believing that they have failed if their baby does not sleep through the night or they don’t manage to get to their baby class. I am a firm believer that all families are different and require different things to make them function. I would encourage new parents to get their baby into some sort of daily routine even if it is just setting a time to get up in the morning and go to bed at night and getting out of the house at some point in the day. However, I also believe that we need to spend more time talking to each other and genuinely building relationships in which we do feel we can talk about how we are feeling and coping. Asking for help does not mean that we have failed! Even research suggests that teaching our children to talk about their emotions is a huge contributor towards their future success in life. We can start doing this by just taking the time to talk to them about what makes them happy and what makes them sad. We can also help develop this skill in children by just modelling it ourselves.
As practitioners, and indeed as friends of new parents, we should try to break the stigma attached to postnatal depression and ask new parents how they are feeling and coping with the transition. We should not avoid these questions in fear of not knowing how to support the parent – we should take the time to provide a listening ear and reassurance that help is available. Following this you can then signpost and support new parents to seek help from either a health professional or appropriate charity who can then provide the expert support. This will not only have a beneficial impact on the parent’s life, but will improve the outcomes for baby as well. Let’s get talking and help break down barriers in our society around emotional and mental wellbeing.
Below Elspeth has given some website for further information and support on postnatal depression and mental health: