I know several mamas who have struggled with PPD/PPA, and I am one of them. I have two older brothers diagnosed with severe mental health issues, Schizophrenia among them. My youngest sibling struggled with ADHD all through school, which he eventually graduated from using packets, because the traditional setting just wasn’t equipped for his needs.
I hold so many people dear who battle with mental illness on a regular basis, and it’s so often devastating, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.
An interesting tidbit about facing so much of this within my childhood family is that my dad doesn’t believe in mental illness. He comes from a culture where anything you think, you can become, so one must simply out-think the negative. They never needed medicine or doctors on the islands, only willpower and home remedies.
It’s not something I hold against him; he comes from a very different way of life. But it’s something I see even here in America. It’s almost like the culture of another age.
Suddenly, we have more people talking about mental illness than ever before. More people willing to share their stories. God-willing, the trend will continue.
But, not too long ago, generations of people were taught that mental illness was something to be hidden, something to be suppressed, and that seeking help meant blemishing the family name.
Whether you talk about mental illness or not, this is something we all need to get away from. Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health. It deserves the same amount of thoughtful care, treatment, and understanding.
Let me say that again: Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health. It deserves the same amount of thoughtful care, treatment, and understanding.
If we don’t first believe this as a people, how will the system and coping skills of society as a whole ever improve?
Lack of Education
I shared a podcast recommendation recently of an interview with a young mother suffering from Postpartum Depression. After admitting suicidal thoughts to her husband, he called 911 in an effort to ensure her safety and properly care for someone who was in a place that he didn’t have the skill set to pull her out of.
She speaks of how the EMTs that arrived on site told her to stop crying, so she wouldn’t harm the baby with her sadness. Imagine how that would make a mother — dearly concerned about her lack of ability to care for her children in the first place — feel!
Without the consent or knowledge of either her or her husband, she was then put to sleep and admitted to the psych unit, where she awoke pulled apart from her family and her baby, and had to stay for 2 days, completely alone in foreign surroundings.
And this is not the first horror story of its kind that I’ve heard. In fact, when I struggled after the birth of my son, I blatantly lied during my check-ups with my OB/GYN. I cried to my husband, I suffered in silence, I called my mom in tears, but I refused to seek any type of professional help, because I have seen how the mental healthcare system functions!
Now, I am NOT saying, don’t get help. I was wrong. And I wish I had gotten help sooner.
But it’s sad to see so many people just “doing their jobs”, passing it on to the next, more-qualified person to handle the “problem”, until an imperfect solution can be found — Oh, a mental health issue? Let’s send them to the psych ward. Because nobody else knows what to do.
And the psych ward can be a necessary and valid decision, and the people just doing their jobs aren’t entirely to blame. But something must change so that these good people are evaluated by an educated professional on a case-by-case basis.
Only, how can we ever demand that if we don’t first dispel the stigma amongst ourselves?
So, in an effort to start small, I have a few ideas for you of how you can help those around you in a kind and loving way, in your own circle, and start quashing this cultural phenomenon from the ground up.
#1: Be willing to listen.
You don’t have to agree. Sometimes people just. need. to. talk. Mental illness can be so isolating. Let them get it off of their chest to someone they trust and feel safe with, and then you can evaluate from there.
#2: Offer action.
We all know that the general population is not equipped to handle serious mental illness on their own. A professional is most often the best course of action.
But I know for me, it took me months before I was able to reach out. And there was a plea inside of me the whole time, that I couldn’t voice, for someone to please do this for me. Find me someone who knows how to help, don’t just tell me that would be a good idea!
So if you are in it with someone and you know that’s what they need, offer action! Call a therapist, come over to cook, come over to babysit, set up a lunch date… Don’t wait to be asked.
#3: Remember, you are not the judge.
Another stigma I see with this new phase of speaking up about mental health is the tendency to minimize when people do speak out.
“They won’t know what real depression is like until they go through _______.”; “Everybody has ADHD.”; “That response was unwarranted.”; “It is not that bad.”.
The truth is we don’t know. No one aside from a loving Father in Heaven knows another person’s heart or pain. So take it back to #1, just listen, and remember you are not the judge.
And don’t ever feel yourself like you have to wait until it’s “bad enough” or “socially acceptable” to seek out help or connection. Your emotion and your pain is valid and often debilitating to you, and that is enough.
#4: About Unsolicited Advice
Surprisingly, I’m not going to say never offer unsolicited advice. Sometimes, our loved ones need to hear the hardest truths from us, not from a stranger, not from a rumor mill, not finding it out years later on their own.
HOWEVER. Once unsolicited advice has been offered, you need to allow them to take it or leave it. Lecturing and coercion don’t work. Each of us, even those who struggle with mental illness, has been gifted agency and choice from Heaven, and, ultimately, we must be free to face those consequences.
#5: Love and pray.
That being said, I understand that this can sometimes be the hardest part. Trust me. I have shed many tears over this one, but we have to allow each other to take our own path, even when we know where it might lead. When it is no longer within your control to keep a loved one safe, and happy, the only thing you can do is give it to God. May He bless you and your loved ones with peace and comfort along the way.
Here’s to small acts of kindness, and affecting change where we can.