This profoundly written article by Andrew Solomon discusses the devastation of depression of various types, including postpartum depression, however, the primary focus is bringing to light antepartum depression which effects women during pregnancy, specifically women with a history of depression. I applaud the author’s effort in bringing to light this very serious illness. Many of us who suffer from depression, do so in silence due to the seemingly unshakable stigma and fear which sometimes keeps one from seeking help.
In my community, women of color have an added barrier to treatment, mental health options are extremely limited and not encouraged as a viable resource by general health care professionals. It’s almost as if the underlying assumption is that the mind and body are not connected.
When I was in need of help during my pregnancy, the public health practitioners whom I was referred to did not connect my high risk pregnancy at age 31, with a verbally abusive spouse as an indication of possible increased risk for antepartum depression. Consequently, my depression was left untreated and I came very close to bringing harm to my daughter months after her birth in the year 2000. Is it safe to assume that the level of research had not identified depression during pregnancy as a mental illness?
Although there are many disparities within the health care system, the access to mental health hits home for me, not only because of the psychotic episode that nearly cost my infant daughter’s life, but because it seems the media gives attention to women who kill or harm their babies further stigmatizes us as weak minded freaks of nature. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak up and give a voice to those who are now living with shame and powerlessness due to this dreaded disease that is treatable.
As a male clinician, lending your voice sends a message that depression impacts the entire family unit, treating mental health as any other illness will hopefully gain the attention of the entire medical community and compressive health care options including mental health will/should be included in all physical health exams, so we can all keep our heads up and live fearless.