“Lighten Her Darkness”
-Sarah Workman Chaccone
This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Second Annual Perinatal Mental Health Conference in Orlando with my sweet friend Amanda O’Donoughue, who runs the project Partum Me. I have never attended a conference like this before, and while I had no idea what was going to come from the conference, I was very excited to learn from some pretty incredible people studying, researching, and treating perinatal and postpartum mood disorders.
We were into Sarah Workman Chaccone’s presentation when I heard the words, “lighten her darkness” and from that moment and throughout the majority of the conference I was fighting back the tears. An incredibly profound statement that completely embodies the feeling of postpartum depression, and I imagine other perinatal and postpartum mood disorders that women (and men) suffer from; the darkness.
About two weeks ago, I completed the requirements to earn my Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and a large portion of my undergraduate work was on postpartum depression and other postpartum mood disorders. It was more than refreshing to listen to the professionals who are doing the work to help women, and families, during the perinatal and postpartum seasons. I learned about the statistics of women who are addicted to prescription opioids, and the contingencies of prescribing these medications to women once they become pregnant. I learned about how simply talking with a professional during the perinatal period about the experience of mood disorders is beneficial in treatment. It may not be enough treatment, but it is certainly an important piece of the puzzle.
This conference set off so many light bulbs for me, and one of the biggest things I took away from this conference was that even though the research is seemingly slim… there are many, many incredible individuals who are working hard to not only bring awareness to perinatal and postpartum mood disorders but that have a genuine, wholehearted interest in helping women and families who experience these disorders.
One thing that also noticed is that there is a huge gap between the research findings that is available to students/professionals and the general public. I noticed that the research that was discussed at the conference is not available to the general public in a way that is understood, or even at all. I also noticed that there was little to no attention to preventative care.
Can we prevent perinatal and postpartum mood disorders?
If we aren’t able to prevent these mood disorders, how do we handle predispositions and the mood disorders we aren’t prepared for?
How do we get the information from the research to the public in a way that is not only honest, but leaves the public interested and wanting to know more?
How do we help new mothers who are feeling alone?
How do we inform the public about perinatal mental health and the importance of a healthy mind? Not only for mother, but for the baby and family.
After working with women for the last five years, I have seen an exorbitant amount of time and preparation invested into the birth of the baby… I have also noticed that there is little investment into the mother, her mental health, how to make adjusting to a new life in the home a little easier and a little less overwhelming.
Amanda said it perfectly when she said on her Facebook page, “Working on the ground around new mothers, I have noticed so much effort that goes into preparation for the baby, but it is sadly all in the form of material items. we are preparing for babies like we prepare for our weddings. We spend tens of thousands on weddings, and rely on our Doctors for the delivery of our babies. We trust them, and then when we are sent home, we find ourselves completely overwhelmed. Societal ideals are NOT what we are experiencing. The feelings of guilt and depression creep in and we are unprepared.“
How can we change this? How can we make the perinatal and postpartum seasons more supportive, not only for the mother and new baby… but for the entire family?
I may not have the answers to these questions, but I am making it my mission to assist in finding out.