Talking About Post-natal Depression with Friends
When someone you know is suffering from post-natal depression, it is vital they get support from their partner, family and friends.
Many women don't know much about post-natal depression and what the symptoms are. Some women may not realise they are suffering from from PND at all, and will put their symptoms down to other things, such as lack of sleep, hormones, change of routine, and a new baby. A woman prefers to think these feelings of loneliness, crying all the time, not being able to cope will simply pass, but in many cases, they do not.
There are 12,000 women diagnosed annually in Ireland with post-natal depression. This is a much stigmatised illness and women are more than reluctant to talk about it. When women realise they are struggling, they can stay in denial as they are afraid to engage with this debilitating progressive illness.
So if you are experiencing post-natal depression, please try and talk to a trusted friend about your feelings. Sometimes when friends open up to each other, they realise they too might have experienced a similar illness or situation. Society puts a huge amount of pressure on women to be the perfect mom and this can be so tough emotionally on new mothers. The responsibility and challenges of being a parent are very often not talked about and unfortunately there is a still a huge stigma surrounding women’s maternal mental health.
Women can feel very alone, isolated and a sense of failure if they are not coping like other women seem to. They feel afraid, embarrassed and ashamed if they admit they are really struggling. Depression itself can alter a woman’s communication skills, thinking and decision making. Women feel they have lost their own identity. It can be hard for them to verbalise how they are feeling and women may be afraid of people’s reactions if they say how they are feeling. Some women will be afraid their baby will be taken away if they admit they are not well.
If you have a friend and believe they are not coping, please approach them gently and try to draw them out by talking with them. It is important to try and talk with them but also equally important to treat the conversation with extreme sensitivity.
What To Say To your Friend:
- How are you doing?
- I notice there are some changes in you
- Are you feeling down?
- Would you like to talk about it?
- Can I help in any way?
- Would you like me to take the baby for a couple of hours so you can rest?
- Could you consider seeking professional help?
- I am here for you
Education and early intervention is key for women experiencing post-natal depression and a friend can learn about its symptoms and gently pass this information on to their friend.
Being supportive and letting her talk about how she is feeling is very important. Knowing she can talk to you about her feelings without being judged or criticised will help her feel much better and may encourage her to seek help. Just listen to her. Encourage her to show her emotions and not bottle them up but avoid telling her how she should feel. Be patient with her, she is not herself or thinking clearly.
Encourage her to seek professional help and give her options of who to talk to so that she knows she is not alone and there is help for her and she has an illness that once she gets treatment is recoverable from.
If you are worried about your friend talk with her partner or a family member if she is more than reluctant to seek help and ask them to talk with her GP. If she is refusing to seek professional help or refuses to acknowledge there is a problem, then you know she is in denial and not coping. If you feel there she is a danger to herself or the baby you must involve her family and other professionals to support her immediately.
If you or a friend are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact our mental health partner, Nurture.
You can contact Nurture on 01 8430930
With professional help, a woman can feel well again. There is a sense of hope and light at the end of the tunnel.
Written by Irene Lowrey for eumom