It's taken me a day to really think about what the documentary on Sunday night was showing. I really wanted to watch it with the hope it would use its platform to not only explore the complexity around maternal mental health, but to also portray a deeper look into the reasons why women have temporary and longer term mental health conditions during and post pregnancy.
We saw a collection of women sharing their stories of how they came to be in the care of the amazing mother and baby inpatient units; all of whom suffering from mental health conditions. All women followed were very open about their experiences. Some looked more uncomfortable than others when reflecting and re-living, but it’s fair to say all were incredibly brave.
All had varying levels of conditions that were clear triggering factors to their state; one had suffered previous trauma through abuse; one had suffered baby loss before this pregnancy. The common thread between all four women was the transparency of their vulnerability.
One of the things as it went on that made me increasingly emotional was the notion of image. One story in the documentary I felt said so much about where we are currently at in society. Here was a mum in her lowest of times, desperate to find that bond with her baby, discussing the notion of perfection as she flicked through Instagram and uploaded new photos. This was alongside balancing a stream of suicidal thoughts and even attempts of it. When questioned, her response aired towards the need to look and act a certain way after having a baby. Being a perfectionist I re-call. The pressure that is felt to look like you are doing great across social media. So, at a time where the focus must be 100% getting better, why is something telling women that the world needs to see this version of them? Who is surprised the mind of a new mum is so exposed to feeling vulnerable when they feel a pressure to act and behave a certain way?
The documentary went some way to showing mums struggling with their mental health, and the discussions it has brought up is so important to anyone feeling like they might be going through this. But how can we see the follow up for these ladies? What’s the prevention for others? Can there be prevention and if not, how can we manage and explore safely what brought it on to then develop coping strategies? What are the protocols a mother goes through to get better? We have the NHS full of amazing perinatal nurses working to answer these questions, it’s just a shame the programme didn’t allow for more of their work to be seen and for you to know the full picture and complexity of perinatal care.
If these questions are not answered by broadcasting in the same way they are thrown up, then the intentions of that programme will subside to a point of general conversation that won’t have the desired legacy or impact. As great as it is to see the topic brought to mainstream TV, I fear the cycle will prevail where little change is had, social pressures carry on winning, women carry on not talking as openly as we so want, if this isn’t taken further. So, what can we do? We must keep talking, supporting, listening and reflecting. Use this as a stepping stone to push down the stigma and quieten social pressure. Mothers are not something to be lit under a social microscope for judgement, but maybe the way we perceive the role and the support required needs investigation. Next episode maybe, Louis?