So you may be reading this because a close friend or family member has had a baby and appears to be struggling, maybe they have already found the courage to tell you they are feel low and have got or think they may have Postnatal Depression, You may be wondering what you can do to help/support them? Maybe you’ve no experience of mental illness, maybe you have, either way I hope this post helps in a small way to help you understand and support the person affected.
One thing a mum whose struggling needs, is someone to listen, Postnatal Depression makes the person feel completely alone whether they are surrounded by people or not, it makes the person feel like no one understands. So listen to them, hear what they are saying, sometimes it’s not always about offering help it is simply just listening to mum so they know their feelings are valid, that they are not making up how they feel.
Now mum has told you how she feels give her a BIG hug, it is incredibly scary to open up about how you are feeling to someone.
It is hard enough for a mum to accept that she isn’t feeling as ‘happy’ as the baby magazines all told her she would, that she may resent baby, find it difficult to bond, the crying herself to sleep every night because she is so damn exhausted physically and mentally. So whatever you do, please accept this is how she feels and it is not “all in her head”, you may not understand it if you’ve no experience of Mental Illness, but it will mean a lot to mum if you say “I might not understand but I accept this is how you are feeling, and I am here for you”.
Trust me when I say a mum suffering with a mental illness will be doubting herself and her parenting abilities enough without someone else coming in and say “Mrs Jenkins had 7 children and coped perfectly well, why can’t you!” This is NOT helpful, a mum with PND does not need to know that other people had a football team and didn’t struggle, we need to know that other people have struggled too but importantly have recovered, that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. If you don’t understand Postnatal Depression please learn a little about it, it doesn’t make them a bad mum, it makes them a strong one for fighting every day.
This wonderful post from my friend Eve tells of more things not to say to a mum with PND.
Suffering with postnatal depression is exhausting, you have a small baby (and possibly older siblings) to care for, a house to keep on top of, mouths to feed, dress, play with and care for, and a million other things to do, all on 0.5hours sleep, this doesn’t leave a lot of time for mum to look after herself, so offering her help can make a big difference to how she feels that day.
If you aren’t sure whether mum is suffering with Postnatal Depression or if she has told you she is but you don’t know much about it have a read hereof symptoms etc
Going back to the first section about listening, find out what the mum would appreciate help with, it could be simply sitting there with a cuppa and a chat to break up her day, or doing her dishes (maybe that just me!), maybe offering to go for a walk with her (When you have PND sometimes getting out seems like a mammoth task but it can help to get out in the fresh air).
Obviously I’m not going to suggest you replace professional help it is hugely important that a mum suffering with Postnatal Depression seeks professional help as soon as she can, but family and friend support is equally important to a mum suffering with Postnatal Depression. Encourage mum to speak to a health care professional (if she hasn’t already). Tell her you will be there for her if you can/she wants, talking can be really hard but if mum has already told one person perhaps they can help her tell the professional.
Just make sure you tell mum you will be there for her, through the ups and downs that you will hold her hand when she needs it, be a shoulder when she crys. Just BE there.
Look after yourself
Some might read this and think “Why is she telling the person supporting a mum with PND to look after themselves??”. Well the reason is, It can be incredibly tough to maintain a relationship/friendship with someone who has a mental illness (trust me I have been on both sides of this equation). So it is important to make sure you have someone to support you too, only when we look after ourselves properly are we able to help others.
I hope this post will help others understand how lonely it feels to suffer with Postnatal Depression, and that sometimes all mum needs is a hug, not a lecture on how everyone else is coping and she isn’t.
What mum needs is HOPE, she needs to know she will get better and that she will have someone by her side as she takes that journey from the shadows of PND back into the light.
The #PNDFamily on Twitter supports those affected by Perinatal Mental Illness (Antenatal/Postnatal Depression/Anxiety/OCD etc) but this also includes support for those supporting a mum with a mental illness. join us this week (January 28th) 8pm for #PNDHour where we will be discussing ‘How you can help someone with PND’
Together We Are Stronger.