Have you heard about #PNDAW16 yet? During 5-11 September 2016, the charity PANDAs Foundation are hosting the UK’s first Pre and Post Natal Depression Awareness Week.
PANDAs along with their supporters are talking about perinatal mental illnesses, the symptoms and how people can get the help they need. Perinatal mental illnesses can range from pre-natal depression, the baby blues, post natal depression or postpartum depression. Although some of the symptoms can be similar, there are also some differences. These are explained more on the NHS website.
Although mental health is being spoken about more than it ever has, PANDAs have rightly pointed out that pre and post natal mental illnesses are still left in the dark, given that many women and men battle with these illnesses during parenthood. PANDAs are passionate about ensuring that no parent feels alone when dealing with these heartbreaking illnesses. A lot of people don’t talk about suffering from these types of perinatal depression.
The PANDAs Foundation website was one of the first places I headed to when I experienced the baby blues last Summer (you can read about it here). To support PANDAs, I contacted friends and my mummy networks at the start of #PNDAW16 week to see if they would like to contribute to this blog post. I asked them to share their advice for a friend who could be dealing with post natal depression.
I have been overwhelmed with the responses. Some also shared their own experiences and what helped them at the time. So I’ll be featuring a selection of what people had to say over two blog posts. The first blog post focuses on how an individual could be feeling and the importance of talking to someone. The below pieces of advice have been provided by different people.
Tips on how you can help a friend who might have post natal depression
Don’t hide how you’re feeling…
“It helps no one to pretend how amazingly well you’re coping and that sometimes you’re not enjoying the early days of parenthood. Don’t put pressure on yourself. I had this idea how maternity leave should be and I needed to go to lots of baby groups. And so I went to all those groups where I felt uncomfortable and I would have been much happier just hanging out by myself with my baby. Next time round I’ll be following my gut more about what I want and need rather than putting expectations on myself.”
Don’t put high expectations on yourself…
“Being a parent is hard. I found the best thing was to do was to expect to get nothing done each day and anything you did manage to get done made you feel better about yourself. Also, I would have liked to have known how amazing it gets as they get older…..when you’re a new parent you think you’ll never get out of the tough bit!”
“Easy to say, but try and let go of your expectations. Be gentle on yourself. It’s normal to feel lost, overwhelmed and sometimes panicked as a new parent. You are good enough and doing your best. Take one day at a time. Ignore the washing, forget the cleaning and focus on the here and now.”
It’s OK to feel this way…
“Many people do and many don’t talk about it. The circumstances don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if the baby was a gin and tonic and a quickie or the culmination of five years of fertility treatment.”
“It’s important you acknowledge how you feel. Nothing can prepare you for a new baby and you have no idea how you will feel afterwards. It helps to remember that everyone’s experience is unique and there is no model or template for how you ‘should’ be. All you can really do is acknowledge and be open with how it is for you.”
“Remember you are not you being selfish or stupid by feeling low after having a baby.”
Talk to someone…
“Don’t be afraid to open up and talk to people, you never know, they may have a similar experience which you can draw on.”
“I’d say talk to people. Friends, family another mum at a baby group. Let them know how you’re feeling. Absolutely no one will judge you. People understand how hard it can be and people want to help you. Sometimes just a little chat can make the world of difference, especially if it involves a giggle!”
“Find your mum tribe online or in person, a friend or relative and ask them to just listen to you. Sometimes we simply need to be heard to feel relief or that you can move forward.”
“A friend of mine had post natal depression for several years. I have always wanted to say to her ‘don’t be afraid to talk about it’. I think sharing it may have helped her a lot.”
“Make sure there is at least one person you can go to and share things with without judgement.”
Make sure you talk to your partner…
“It’s important your partner knows about how you are feeling, and if you don’t feel better after a couple of weeks be sure to speak to your GP or health visitor.”
“Get your other half to read up on it as they may not understand that its something that can happen and its out of your control.”
“I think (for people in relationships) partners have an important job to do in looking out for the signs and recognising when further help may be needed.”
Get professional help just as you’d get help with a physical illness…
“Speak to a professional, such as a good GP. Or you can check out local IAPT services for a self referral.”
“I got very down after having my baby and after a c-section so it was a mixture of recovery and tiredness. There were issues with bonding with my baby although I loved her very much. I felt incredibly alone and a bit of a failure to be honest as the tiredness and anxiety set in. I did tell my partner at the time who was unsupportive. I didn’t tell anyone else, not even my family. So after trying, and more months of misery, I plucked up the courage to go the doctors and explained it all. They were terrific and listened – all I wanted was to talk about it. Looking back glad I went doctors. I’d suggest going to the doctors or a local group, especially if you have no other support.”
“My good friend was also hospitalised with severe PND for a period of time and I think sleep deprivation was a trigger for her (as well as other factors of course). For her, getting professional medical help was very important.”
The more we can talk about it, the more we realise we aren’t the only ones…
“We aren’t good at discussing these things generally and people may not know what to say but by being open you will encourage others to be more so and this will help. And it will pass. Not in a prescribed time period but eventually. Keep going. You are doing brilliantly.”
“I had no idea I had any baby blues problems at the time but more recently, finally having the courage to talk honestly with friends made me realise actually most people have needed help since having a baby. Unfortunately, like me I suppose, they don’t actually know anyone to have a close honest relationship with at the time… Most of us meet mummy friends at NCT or after having babies, meaning a lot of friendships are only weeks old when we have it hard.”
“Let your friend know that she is not on her own and that she must not be scared to talk about it. Baby blues and post natal depression are very common but somehow still taboo.”
So, a huge hug-filled thank you to everyone who contributed to this post. The second blog post will capture other practical things that may help. Please spread the word about the support that is available. Let’s continue to look out for each other.
PANDAs website is www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
They can also be contacted on 0843 28 98 401 9am-8pm 7 days a week.
If you have any thoughts on or advice for those dealing with any forms of perinatal depression, please leave a comment below. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post.