I don’t want to beat anyone up. I don’t. I’m not a fan of pitchforks and torches or ripping people to shreds. I just want to get the facts straight. That’s all I’m asking. That’s all any Warrior Mom asks.
This story, originating from Disney’s BabyZone and republished on Yahoo Shine, strays from the facts. It lends credence to the idea that women with PPD are dangerous:
“Over and over, it seems that when women are involved in acts of violence, often harming their own children, PPD is the root. (The US Department of Justice reports that only 20% of violent crimes involve female offenders. That’s not to say it never happens but statistically speaking, it just doesn’t seem to be in our makeup.) PPD is the silent, scary and a very real threat lurking in family homes across the country. My point is not that any one of us could suddenly snap. My point is that too many of us do.”
I’m sure the author was trying to help, but PPD is not and never has been nor ever will be the “root cause” of women harming their children. This kind of commentary is completely misinformed, and it’s the reason why so many mothers are afraid to reach out for help when they are suffering.
Then there was NBC’s “Today Show” guest Jennifer Hartstein saying, on national TV, that “postpartum depression has led mothers to kill their children.” NOPE. SORRY.
For the record I’m employed, proudly, by Disney as a writer for Babble, but I have to call it out when someone, either on purpose or inadvertently, makes it seem as though postpartum depression means “any one of us could suddenly snap.” It’s wrong to stigmatize moms with PPD in this way. It’s true that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can and do affect every kind of woman. It doesn’t matter if you’re a younger mom or an older one, with a high school education or a graduate degree, a mother who lives in the city or the countryside, or one with lots of money or limited funds. These illnesses can happen to anyone. Still, we’re not all lurking outside the proverbial shower curtain, ready to “snap,” a la the movie “Psycho.” The fact is that mothers with postpartum depression do not harm their children.
Some moms, a very small percentage, with a different illness called postpartum psychosis, may harm their children. It’s certainly not a guarantee that they will, and I know many, many wonderful mothers who have experienced postpartum psychosis who are great people and have never hurt a flea. It’s just that certain symptoms of postpartum psychosis — delusions and hallucinations — have the potential, if the illness is untreated, to lead a mom to believe she has to do certain things or behave in certain ways that she would never do otherwise. This is why there is a 5% rate of infanticide or suicide among mothers with postpartum psychosis. While the rate is very low, since the potential outcome is tragedy we must take every case of postpartum psychosis seriously and provide all the help and support possible to the moms who have it.
Whenever I see in the news that a mom with postpartum psychosis has carried out an act of violence it makes me angry that she wasn’t protected from her illness. What happened to Miriam Carey, the mother who was shot in DC last week, is tragic. She’s a victim of postpartum psychosis just as much as anyone else who might have been harmed by her, but most people would rather just lock her up and throw away the key than face the fact that she has fallen, needlessly, through the cracks.
We have to do better, and portraying mothers who have perinatal mood or anxiety disorders with words like “threat,” “lurking,” “violence,” and “snap” isn’t doing better. This type of rhetoric only serves to further stigmatize moms for an illness they didn’t ask for and didn’t cause. It’s got to stop.
Here, by the way, is a media outlet that got it right: Three Things To Know About Postpartum Depression. Thank you Boing Boing and Maggie Koerth-Baker. Thank you for knowing how important it is to get the facts straight.