Know a mom with postpartum depression? Here's how to help.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

According to, close to 20% of new moms suffer from symptoms of postpartum depression (source). To make that number real and personal, think of four moms you know who have had babies in the last year. One of them probably has feelings of worthlessness, excessive worry, unending sadness, and maybe even suicidal thoughts.

If you know or suspect a mom has postpartum depression, you may want to help her but don't know how.  Maybe its awkward. Maybe your relationship isn't close. Maybe you struggle with an illness of your own. I want you to know that its totally normal and okay to have no idea what to say or how to help! As someone who has struggled with PPD, I have some helpful ideas.

Be an awesome listener

Most moms with PPD really benefit from a candid conversation with someone they trust. Just like when you've had a stressful day at work and need to vent, moms need that too - especially women with PPD. 

Some moms with PPD may become very isolated and have a hard time leaving the house because of anxiety. In that case, some mothers may turn to social media to share their experiences. Reading their posts and offering kind and supportive comments can be very helpful and healing for moms. Don't discount the power of positive social media presence. 

Coming over to visit for a chat or picking them up in the evening to go to ice cream or dinner can be one of the kindest things you can do for someone. Two women from my church visit me regularly and I can't tell you how awesome it is to me that they come with listening ears and open hearts. Having someone to talk to in an otherwise kind of lonely trial is so helpful!

The key to listening well is to have an attitude of receiving. A listener absorbs information and learns. They ask questions that pertain to the topic. They offer encouragement and support, and maybe relevant and wanted advice when the time is right. Good listeners don't anxiously look for an opening in the conversation to change the topic to themselves and their experiences. A supportive conversation has the attributes of vulnerability, positive reception, and polite sharing of the two roles. 

Get informed

Mental illness has come a long way out of the dark ages of asylums, but it still has a long way to go. Many people still perceive mental illness as a choice or an excuse for laziness. Luckily, all that is needed to correct this flawed perspective is kindly offered facts. 

If someone has shared that they suffer from PPD in any of its forms, it helps to become informed. There are many faces of PPD, including anxiety, bipolar, OCD, PTSD, depression, and psychosis. All of these diseases have distinct characteristics and it is helpful to know them.

Some great resources for learning about mental illnesses and mothers include:
  1. is an amazing resource for those who want more information about pre/post natal mood disorders. They have a really helpful list for a DIY screening for the most common forms of PPD as well as information on how to help and find a cure!
  2. Books are among the most helpful tools on earth. Check out the selection in the science, parenting, and psychology sections in your local library. Ebooks are also an affordable option for purchasing books!
  3. Blogs. Some are wary about using personal blogs for research, but my (totally biased) opinion is that they can be incredibly helpful. Its impossible for any one resource to contain all the information and human experience of mental illness. Knowing that there are others out there who struggle with mental illness helps mothers and those who love them feel they are not alone.
  4. Counseling and doctor's appointments. This is especially helpful for spouses! Nothing beats talking with a professional about a diagnosis. A partner can bring questions, concerns, and insights to an appointment and receive the answers and support they need. It also feels incredibly supportive to the mom to have someone attend with her!

Be supportive

Moms with mental illness need help. The level will vary, but there are many ways to provide service to mamas in need. Those include:
  • babysitting children so mom can attend her appointments 
  • going with mom to her appointments if she's nervous
  • bringing a meal (you can even have pizza delivered!)
  • delivering a treat and a smile just because
  • sending a nice card in the mail to let her know you're thinking of her
  • visiting and listening
  • inviting her to and seeking her out at church and social activities so she has a friend to sit by
  • writing a nice message or comment on social media
  • offering your home or companionship as a "safe zone" - judgement free and available for times of extreme distress
Talk with her and get an idea for what she needs. Some may benefit from babysitting and pressure-free invitations to get together. Others might need a "safe zone" especially if they have anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Everyone appreciates a nice note once in a while.

What's the best part about these suggestions? In most of these cases, it costs nothing except a little convenience to make a difference. You can choose any single one of the above options and you would send a lifeline to a mama in need. I hope these inspire you to reach out to a struggling mama around you. You never know whose life you might change (or save).

© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.