This week is Maternal Mental Health Matters week and hopefully the Internet will be going mad with people talking about it. I want to talk about it too, in fact I do talk about it quite a lot but so many people still don’t. Over the week I will be sharing some mental health related posts from me and other Mums too. To kick us off here’s why I think maternal mental health really does matter.
According to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance
‘More than 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year of having a baby and 7 in 10 will hide or underplay the severity of their perinatal illness.’
Those aren’t small statistics, there are lots and lots of women living with mental health illnesses all around us. Even if you think you don’t know a Mum who has suffered from post natal depression, anxiety, OCD, I bet you do. But they might be the 7 in 10 playing it down.
Just the other day someone asked me how I was feeling. I had had a stinking cold and I assumed that’s what they meant so I answered that I was feeling good. What I didn’t say was that actually I had had an anxiety attack that morning on the school run, my breathing had felt really short and I had felt wobbly walking Little Man to school. I didn’t say that I was happy to have the pushchair to hold on to. I didn’t say that I’d had a bit of a cry about it when I got home.
But what we need to be really really clear about is there is no shame to be felt if you are suffering with a mental health condition. There is no need to feel embarrassed or like you need to hide it away. If someone else makes you feel like that then it is 100% their ignorance and lack of education that needs looking at, not you.
I think there is a particular shame that is often felt by Mums when it comes to mental health and it often manifests itself in guilt. We don’t like to say that we can’t cope with our children. We don’t want people to think that we are bad parents. We don’t want our children to see us struggling. We want to be everything to everyone. But there is no shame. If you were suffering from a visible illness or a physical condition there would be no embarrassment and no worrying about asking for help. The same should be felt about mental illness and the people around all these Mums should be making them feel that way.
We have to talk about it. We have to be brave and tell people to normalise it and to help those people that don’t really get it to understand. We have to make it easier for Mums to go to their GP and ask for help. We have to stop the loneliness and isolation that comes with not being able to talk about it.
Every mother that has a mental illness matters. My mental illness matters. If you are reading this and one of those women in the statistics is you, your mental illness matters too.