May is Mental Health Month

If you’re a regular Tightrope reader, then you’re probably aware of my recent bout with postpartum depression. Until Monkey’s birth, I never had any real understanding of depression or mental health issues of any kind. I accepted them in the academic sense, but I had never lived them before. That all changed this past year.

Since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health Month, dedicated to increasing awareness of mental health issues. From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website on occupational health:

Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 22.1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older-about 1 in 5 adults-suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Mental disorders can also affect children. According to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), mental health problems affect one in five young people.

For those of you out there who are struggling with depression, there is help.

If you think you might hurt yourself or someone else, PLEASE call 911 immediately. Your life is too valuable to be taken away. Help is available.

If you’re looking for treatment, your family doctor or a local hospital is the best place to start. You and your physician can work together to find therapists and identify suitable pharmaceutical interventions.

If you want to learn more about mental health issues and diagnoses from an academic standpoint, I suggest starting with this book review on WIRED by Jason Goldman from The Thoughtful Animal.

If you’re looking for online camaraderie, check out Band Back Together, a community blog I just found that’s dedicated to busting stigmas. Or just hang out around here; I figure another mental breakdown is only a click away.

Whatever you do, don’t waste time feeling guilty. Life doesn’t have to feel this way. There is help. And it does get better.

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3 thoughts on “May is Mental Health Month

  1. I’ve been talking to a friend of mine who’s been on anti-depressants for the last 10 years, and has always struggled to put her needs in the top 5, if not first. She’s thinking of having a kid soon, and is totally overwhelmed by the fetus focus of the literature on becoming a mom. From your general interest in mental health and experience during pregnancy, do you know of any resources that would help her keep her own needs in perspective? Secondly, what resources did you find most useful in dealing with your ppd? My friend will be seeing her regular psychiatrist, and I’m sure she’s reading about it, but if there’s anything that you found amazing out there, I’d like to pass it on.

    Thanks.

  2. I don’t think there’s one great source for PPD, but there is a lot of emerging literature on PubMed that focuses on the moms dealing with it. My therapist also gave me the book ‘This Isn’t What I Expected’. It focuses on individuals who haven’t had problems with depression before, but I think it has a good discussion about what makes PPD unique – especially the guilt associated with feeling like you don’t want your baby. There are lots of other PPD books on Amazon, although I haven’t looked at them very closely.

    I was given the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) test at every doctor appt I went to after I gave birth – my OB, general practitioner, even the pediatrician had me repeatedly take it for the first 4 months. Monkey’s pediatrician was constantly checking on how I was feeling, if I was getting sleep, etc. This was HUGE, and helped me feel less insecure about it. The prevalence of the test seems to be a big change that’s recently taken place, as nobody I know that had a baby before me was asked so much about how they were feeling.

    The worst thing about that time for me was that I didn’t know what was happening, or what I needed. I would never have taken care of myself if it weren’t for my husband making the doctor appointment for me. Your friend’s absolute best resources as she moves forward will be her doctors, friends and family. She should ask questions about PPD when she’s interviewing pediatricians. She’ll be seeing them and her OB quite a bit those first few months, and they can sometimes spot a problem before even another family member. If she has any family nearby, or friends that know about her issues, they should stay in touch as much as possible. Her husband should keep a close eye on her and make sure she gets plenty of time out of the house/away from the baby.

    Also, I don’t know what kind of antidepressants she’s currently on, but there is some literature that suggests Zoloft might be safe during pregnancy. Since antenatal depression is also fairly common, her OB and psychiatrist may suggest she switch to that and get settled in with a lower dose before she tries getting pregnant. At the very least, they’ll make sure she starts it the day she gives birth – that is the common practice for women with a history of depression/PPD.

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