In response to the news that screening for perinatal depression is now recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force, New York Times bestselling author Marianne Williamson took to Facebook to tell her followers that the recommendation is simply a ploy to sell more drugs. She wrote,
“Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.” In comments with followers, she asserts: “The [postpartum depression] disease is not inside the woman; the disease is inside a system so based on greed that it does not honor parents’ need to remain with their children long enough after birth.”
The truth is that one in seven women will develop a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression. Identifying and treating these women is crucial to public health because, according to the National Center on Children and Poverty and voluminous research, untreated postpartum depression and anxiety is, “ … a stronger risk factor for child behavior problems than smoking, binge drinking and emotional or physical domestic abuse.” Untreated PPD can lead to cognitive development problems, poor performance in school, increased aggression and future psychiatric illness and substance abuse. And yet, less than 35% of moms with these illnesses ever receive treatment.
Postpartum depression is real. Moderate to severe postpartum depression requires treatment. And while not all mothers will need medication to recover, they will need help. It may come in the form of psychotherapy, a visiting nurse, group therapy, hospitalization, or peer support, but without help moms will not fully recover. The new guidelines for screening might just mean that more women who need help will be identified and receive the support they deserve. This is why maternal child health advocates must respond when someone who has sold 3 million books and has a social media following in the hundreds of thousands spreads stigmatizing and uninformed information about maternal mental health.
Please join Avital Norman Nathman, editor of The Good Mother Myth, and Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress in a virtual pushback to these stigmatizing words. Use your voice — and perhaps even your own story — to explain why comments like Ms. Williamson’s are not only hurtful, but harmful as well. Use the hashtag #MeditateOnThis to speak out tonight (6pm Eastern, 3pm Western). @TheMamafesto, @postpartumprog
Ignorance of reality is embarrassing. Post-partum depression is a fact. Denying it does not make it go away. Stand united and offer compassionate help.
Maybe I’m missing some of the comments but I’m personally not offended by what she said… the comments that she said, “The [postpartum depression] disease is not inside the woman; the disease is inside a system so based on greed that it does not honor parents’ need to remain with their children long enough after birth” feels very on point for me… I often wonder if I wasn’t backed into a corner with a very stressful job that I had to keep or face bankruptcy, would I have had PPD… ironically that job was FOR a pharma company taking the very drugs that I needed to pull me out of it… I can’t stop thinking about how horrible I was treated by that same company during that time… the company that is making the drugs and for years I had been preaching about how much we cared about patients and there I was countless times literally rocking in a corner of my room, crying so bad that I literally couldn’t breathe on the phone with HR and they had literally no resources to offer me, only fear for losing my job if I couldn’t perform. Thank God I had mental health providers that took over at this point and put me on disability leave or I would have lost my job, but in the end the damage was done and I had to eventually leave… I would encourage you to reread her message. My perception is that she is not speaking against those who have suffered PPD like me, but rather speaking against a flawed system that is contributing to this issue…
Kelly, I understand what you’re saying and agree that the part of her remarks that you quote are true. We are rushed through the postpartum period and that can have an effect on parents. But the dangerous part, the upsetting part of her remarks are in the not-so-subtle message that PPD is not real and rather feeling hormonal and moody is simply normal so what a woman needs is meditation and prayer and a good diet. Those are good things, and they can be a part of a treatment plan. But for many, many suffering women, PPD is about a whole lot more than the system, broken or not. It is biochemical, hormonal, situational and devastating. For me, the only way I could have gotten any kind of treatment to come out of the hole I was in was to start with medications. I could hardly lift my head, there was no way I was going to focus on my diet or meditation. I needed the medication to help jump start the wellness process. Therapy, counseling, diet, exercise, all of this helps, but Marianne is sending a message that it is enough and that we should not take meds, to fight Big Pharma. Many, many mamas definitely should take meds, and there is no shame in that. The strong response to her remarks are due to all of what I’m describing. If she has vulnerable people following her, which of course she does, then she is sending the message to steer away from medications and the fear is that lives will be lost. Some of us simply cannot not/could not have survived without medications.
I hate to say it, but oftentimes with people like her, it takes a crisis close to home (I.e. her daughter having a severe PMAD) for her to get it. She is in a bubble. I hope that she somehow she will realize she made a big mistake, and will admit it to her followers.
That is very disappointing to hear come from Marianne Williamson. I usually love what she says. But if she says there is no post-party’s depression she is wrong, very wrong.
Postpartum depression is real. It cannot simply be meditated away, and eating the “right” foods will not suddenly fix it. Author Marianne Williamson’s statement that “love helps” suggests that women struggling with PPD don’t love their children enough.
When you seek help, you are loving your children. When you start medication to help regulate an imbalance, you are loving your children. When you take care of yourself, you are loving your children.
The foot-in-the-mouth irony and parallel ignorance here is that some people on the VERY BOARD of PSI and it’s state chapters have at times told me to “pray on it.” Hmmm….bet those ones won’t be posting here any time soon.
Yes Heather… I just got that quote from what was in the article, but now have clicked the link and read more… I think there is some truth to what she is saying, but if she truly wants to help with PPD, than she is alienating most people by her approach… I for one, couldn’t have gotten through it without medication… I’m certainly passionate about taking away some of the stigma of medication… and hopefully one day I can get to the meditation she speaks of 🙂