PPD aka Postpartum Depression was something that wasn’t really understood but has now gotten more awareness. More people understand that it’s an illness and not a mood or exaggerated baby blues. As someone who loves the mum you’re not sure how to talk to them or what to say, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
You should be aware that there is really nothing you could possibly say to make things any better. So don’t feel like you’re failing as a husband or sister or friend. However, there are some things that you should never say. Some are simply insensitive but some you’ll be tempted to say because it seems like it’s what you should but don’t.
1.That you understand.
Just don’t. It may come from a place of love and maybe you really do think that you understand but you don’t. Even if you’ve been through depression yourself this is not a ‘one size fits all’ illness. It takes different forms in different people so what you went through with may not necessarily be what she’s going through.
2. “Lets just binge your favorite show, I’m sure it’ll make you feel better.”
Be aware that what the mum found comfort in before giving birth, won’t be the same any more. They feel disconnected from the world and life in itself so the last thing they want is to binge watch Scandal on a Saturday night.
3. “You just need to leave the house. Spend time with other mums. I’m sure a spa trip will fix you right up.”
The last thing a depressed mum needs is to be surrounded by other mums cooing over their children lovingly and pretending to understand what she’s going through. It will make her feel even more of an outsider because she’s unable to connect with her baby. Watching other mums bond with their children will also reinforce the idea in her head that she’s a bad mother. A spa trip will just be an opportunity for strangers to ask her what’s wrong because she looks sad. She definitely won’t able to answer the question which will lead them to jump to conclusions and make empty gestures to try to solve whatever problem they’ve deemed is present. If the mum expresses the desire for a massage or getting her nails done, have someone come do it at her house. Maybe suggest they do it peacefully.
4. “Don’t worry. You’re not alone. All new mums feel this way.”
It is true that there are other mums who experience depression but normalizing the issue will lead the mum to not want to seek help because it’s normal right? If it’s normal then it must and will go away on its own.
5. “Come on,cheer up. This the happiest time of your life. Be grateful.”
Having a baby is made out to be an exciting journey and you couldn’t possibly be sad once you’ve had one. Mums struggle through some things and telling them that they should be cheery all the time will invalidate their illness and makes them feel like terrible mothers. Then they’ll feel even more insecure.
6. “Toughen up. People have been having babies for centuries you’re just being dramatic.”
Some people make it seem like PPD is just a new mum trying to seek attention. Once again this invalidates their illness and makes them feel even more distressed.
You can let them know instead:
- These are symptoms its not you. It is all temporary and they will get better after treatment.
- Offer to help them with the baby; Drop by unattended and pick up tasks in the house without waiting for them to ask
- Shower them with love and always remind them you are and will be around for as long as it takes
- If they are crying, be their shoulder to lean on.
- Recognize and assure them that they will always be good mothers even though they are struggling with mental health.