In light of recent events, we have a special guest blog by Lindsey Zaskiewicz, LMSW. Lindsey is a licensed social worker currently employed as a clinician on a mental health and substance abuse crisis line. Prior to this role, she has several years of experience working in maternal-infant mental health, as well as direct practice with adolescents and young adults. Beyond her role as a social worker, she is also an expectant mother who is navigating this journey for the first time; this provides a unique opportunity to empathize and appreciate what other moms have experienced themselves.
In an era when everywhere you turn things are being aired, tweeted, and live-streamed, it’s hard to dodge the media and celebrity updates that inundate our daily lives. Most recently, news and media outlets have covered the deaths of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, each dying by suicide. And while many people will take the opportunity to grieve those beloved public figures, media coverage of high-profile suicides can also negatively influence those at risk already.
It is important to take inventory of our own responses and internal triggers when confronted with the news of a death by suicide, especially for women who are currently struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.* You are allowed to give yourself permission to turn off TV reports or not scroll through news feeds in order to maintain a healthy separation. It is also critical to develop and/or use support systems when confronted with worsening depression or anxiety symptoms. Whether you yourself have experienced perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, or you know someone who has (or is at this time), please know that there is help and support available.
We tend to see the side of individuals on social media that they want us to see, and that is not typically an accurate representation of reality. While perinatal mood and anxiety disorders continue to feel somewhat stigmatized in society, there have been several brave women who have come forward to share their stories publicly. When high-profile celebrities can bring attention and shed light on what they have gone through, it can assist women to feel that they are not alone. Some of the most well-known women to speak out regarding their struggles are Brooke Shields, Hayden Panettiere, and JK Rowling. They each had the following to say about their postpartum experience:
Brooke Shields: “I had gone through numerous attempts to have a baby and when I did finally have this perfect, beautiful, healthy baby it all but destroyed me. I couldn’t hold the baby, I couldn’t do anything for the baby, I couldn’t look at the baby.”
Hayden Panettiere received inpatient treatment after the 2014 birth of her child: “There’s a lot of misunderstanding- there’s a lot of people out there that think that it’s not real, that it’s not true, that it’s something that’s made up in their minds, that ‘oh, it’s hormones.’ They brush it off. It’s something that’s completely uncontrollable. It’s really painful and it’s really scary, and women need a lot of support.”
JK Rowling: “I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What’s to be ashamed of? I went through a really rough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that.”
When confronted with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, or thoughts of suicide, it is crucial to reach out and receive support and/or treatment. You can’t tell that someone is struggling or feeling suicidal just by looking at them. If you are the loved one of a pregnant mom or mom with small children, it’s important to check in with them and ask how they are doing, even if things seem to be going well from the outside. And if you are someone who is currently experiencing depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide, there is help available even if you don’t have an immediate social support network. Listed below are several resources that can be used to provide the essential support and encouragement that you need. Also remember, not all treatment is “one size fits all,” so if you don’t feel connected to a specific therapist or type of treatment, please don’t lose hope. Asking for help takes bravery – there is strength in sharing our story and letting ourselves be seen and heard.
Resources for depression, anxiety, and suicide support:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24 hrs/day) 800-273-8255
Pine Rest Mother Baby Program 616-455-9200
Spectrum Health Postpartum Emotional Support Group (FREE) 616-391-5000
* Any type of mood or anxiety disorder from pregnancy through the child’s third year