I’ve had a read of the recommendations that the charity 4Children makes to improve prevention, diagnosis of and treatment of ante and postnatal depression. They identify roles of health visitors in providing practical support before the birth – something I wholeheartedly support, but also recommend training health visitors in CBT, which I think needs a lot more consideration. Health visitors are not trained therapists, and a short CBT course could, potentially, do more harm than good if they suddenly became the ‘experts’ in PND.
The charity is also calling for talking therapies to be better funded and more widely available. Realistically, a lot of women with new babies simply don’t have the time, and can’t access the childcare required to attend regular counselling sessions. The only way I can see this working is by providing some sort of helper or creche facility, which would immediately increase costs. I would also hope that antidepressants aren’t demonised too much. The report notes, in a somewhat horrified tone, that 70% of mothers with PND are taking medication. For me, no amount of talking therapy would have taken the place of my ADs, and in fact only when they started to kick in was I in a calm enough place to examine my thoughts, or speak the truth about my feelings.
I support the idea of a national campaign to raise awareness, and remove some of the stigma associated with the condition. Much as I loathe the deification of celebrities in general, I do think it would be helpful for some well-known women who have suffered from PND to acknowledge their situation. Motherhood is so exalted within the media, that I doubt any celebrity struggling to cope, not bonding with her child, feeling lost and tearful etc, would be keen to admit to it. That, in turn, would require a shift in society in recognising that bringing up babies is tough, and not every woman is a natural. And that we need support – social, emotional, and financial.