On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, moms all over the world took to social media with the hashtag #meditateonthis, to rally together in defense of a new recommendation by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which states, “The USPSTF recommends screening for depression in the general adult population, including pregnant and postpartum women. Screening should be implemented with adequate systems in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and appropriate follow-up.”
This recommendation is huge for the community of PPD survivors, who call themselves Warrior Moms, and who have battled all forms of postpartum depression, anxiety, even psychosis.
So why were they having to defend themselves?
On Tuesday, Marianne Williamson, New York Times bestselling author and lecturer, posted to her Facebook wall, where she has over 650,000 followers, claiming that these recommendations were the result of a money trail from the USPSTF to “big pharma.”
Williamson went on to say “Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.” And later, “Postpartum depression, example, is often a result of a woman’s heartbreak over having to go back to work sooner than her body, mind and heart are ready to. She knows in her gut that her baby needs her home longer, and she needs to be with the baby longer.”
For any mother who has suffered the effects of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum psychosis, Williamson’s words are dangerous ones that add to the stigma that so often accompanies mental illness. For every Warrior Mom raising her fist in argument against Williamson, there is another reading her words and saying, “She’s right. I should be able to do this. I’m not trying hard enough.”
According to the CDC, 8 – 19% or women will suffer from postpartum depression (CDC, Sept 2015); however, according to Kathryn Stone of Postpartum Progress, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness, fighting stigma and providing peer support and programming to women with maternal mental illness, those statistics from the CDC only reflect self-reported cases. Postpartum Progress estimates the actual number to be closer to the 20% range, or 1 in 5. That’s about 1.3 million women annually.
Moms of preemies are two to three times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression than other mothers. The experience of delivering a preemie and the impending NICU stay can have lasting effects on mothers.
The response to Williamson’s condemnation of the recommendation, Warrior Moms took to Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #meditateonthis, and even to Williamson’s own page in opposition of her statement and to advocate for the recommendation and the support it can provide for new moms suffering from postpartum mood disorders.
As long as there are mothers suffering in silence, as long as there is stigma, we will not be quiet. #meditateonthis
— Katherine Stone (@postpartumprog) January 28, 2016
.@marwilliamson #meditateonthis I suffered from suicidal ideations. I wouldn’t be around for my daughters & my husband without meds. — Jen Gaskell (@jenrenpody) January 27, 2016
@marwilliamson #meditateonthis I would not be here today to fight the #stigma you’re creating without my #medication #ppd — Tiffany Dolci (@TiffanyDolci) January 28, 2016
.@marwilliamson Untreated anxiety leads to higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, IBS, and congestive heart failure. #MeditateOnThis — Christina Gleason (@WELLinTHIShouse) January 28, 2016
I didn’t want to be on meds. But if I hadn’t been so wary of treatment + its implications, I could have felt better sooner. #MeditateOnThis — Julie Marsh (@thejuliemarsh) January 27, 2016
.@marwilliamson I have cradled 2 women’s heads in my lap as #PPD tore them apart bc they were told pray harder. #meditateonthis
— Alexandra Rosas (@GDRPempress) January 27, 2016
If you or someone you know may be suffering from postpartum depression, anxiety, or psychosis, talk to a doctor immediately. There is help for you. Visit the following sites for more information and support:
Postpartum Progress (including private forums)