Now, I’ve watched medical dramas long enough to know that they go for the most sensational cases most of the time. My own struggle with Postpartum Depression wouldn’t have garnered many ratings. How many people would really want to watch a woman walk into her doctors office and say, “I just feel blah and I don’t really enjoy being a Mom, can you help me?” get the assistance she needs, fight the good fight, and get better. Not so exciting, I suppose. In short, I wasn’t particularly surprised that ABC chose to write a storyline based around a woman with Postpartum Psychosis. Even so, I sure wish that the media would stop placing all the focus there as 99% of postpartum mood disorders don’t involve any form of psychosis and it is the truly rare case that a woman with a Postpartum Mood Disorder would try to harm her child. Certainly the perpetuation of the myth that all Postpartum Depression involves this extreme sort of action or fantasy is a disservice to women suffering.
Several things really DID bother me. First of all it was terribly irresponsible that the terms Postpartum Depression and Psychosis were used interchangeably. What does it say to a woman who has just been diagnosed with Postpartum Depression to see this? In what is already a frightening and overwhelming situation how dare ABC add fuel to the fire of women struggling by putting women diagnosed with a PPMD in the position to wonder if she too could do that to her child. Furthermore, it bothered me that such a large thrust of the episode revolved around whether or not the troubled mother should be able to be around her child, and it ESPECIALLY bothered me that the makers of this website would put a thoughtless petty poll about whether or not those who viewed Private Practice think a woman should be allowed access to her children when dealing with mental illness. The poll when coupled with the excellently written PSAdoes nothing but further stigmatize this disease, which was certainly exactly the opposite of what Postpartum Support International was going for when they agreed to write the PSA. Even worse it has the potential of frightening women who desperately need help and reassurance when facing a postpartum mood disorder from seeking the help they need. Having been there and done that (to a far milder degree than anyone who had watched this episode would expect–I certainly needed help, but I certainly did NOT want to harm my child), I can speak from experience that the fear of having my child taken away from me made it very hard to reach out for help. Guilt and fear are two of the most debilitating and harmful aspects of PPD and this episode did nothing but perpetuate both AND add to the stigma that women with Postpartum Mood Disorders already have to overcome.
I can’t say that I’m surprised by this television take on the subject, but I’m certainly disappointed that Private Practice portrayed things the way they did. Past that, I find it highly upsetting that even though they featured a PSA on their website, that the matter of Postpartum Mood Disorders was so trivialized throughout the show and especially on the websites poll. I know the sensational cases bring the better ratings, but if you must be sensational at least be responsible. Even more, don’t trivialize the incredibly difficult struggle of mother’s fighting to come back from PPMD’s with a fear-mongering witch-hunt poll.
One more thing: This is of course only MY feelings on the subject and in no way reflects the ideas or opinions of the PSI organization as a whole.