Breast Feeding and mental illness

While I am not a mother or even sure that I want to be one, I realizes the importance of breastfeeding and the implications that mental illness may have on a mother’s ability to do so. I have seen mental illness up close and personal when it comes to motherhood. For years, I always wondered how my mother dealt with being a mother and postpartum depression. I finally got a chance to find out how she death with mental illness, mothering and breast-feeding. You can read my mother’s story here.  After you finish reading my mother’s story make sure to read the other black mother’s stories about how having a mental illness affected their ablity to breastfeed.

In health,

Maliyka

Post Partum Depression: The denied mental health issue

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Photo Courtesy of thefeministwire.com

Ebony Wilkerson’s story or rather the many responses to her actions hit a nerve and was the reason behind a mini rant on twitter.

You see, I have seen post partum psychosis depression up close and in person. In case you did not know, it is not pretty.   I was 12 years old and that person was my mother. She had just had her sixth child nine months ago. It was a scene from a horror story. I will never forget what it looked or smelled like. I worry that I too may suffer from a similar fate. That is why I speak-out and for those women who do not have a voice to speak for themselves. Post partum depression is real. It is not made up any more than PMS is made up.

Just what is post partum depression? According to PubMed Health post partum depression is defined as, “Moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later. Most of the time, it occurs within the first 3 months after delivery.” Like any other medical condition, if post partum depression is left untreated it  can last for months or years. That’s where stories like Ebony’ s come in at. From all accounts, it seems in my opinion that Ebony actually suffered from post partum psychosis, which is far more severe than post partum depression.  According to WebMD post partum psychosis, “Is a rare, severe, and dangerous form of postpartum depression that can suddenly occur within the first 3 weeks following childbirth. A woman who has postpartum psychosis may feel detached from her baby and other people. Or she may have hallucinations involving smell, touch, sight, or hearing. She may have thoughts not based in reality (delusions), display bizarre behavior, or have urges to kill herself and her child or children.”

There is no question that Ebony needs help. There is no question that, her children need to be removed from her care. There is a question of whether she should be treated like a common criminal. While there are plenty of cases  of women killing their children and not being mentally ill, that a mental illness does exist should be taken into account. Most like to use the argument that pedophilia is a mental disorder too. What many fail to realize is that, in order to be diagnosed with a paraphilic diagnosis one must meet certain criteria. As per the DSM-V the criteria is:

  • feel personal distress about their interest, not merely distress resulting from society’s disapproval;

or

  •  have a sexual desire or behavior that involves another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death, or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.

Many do not know this but, in truth most people who have  atypical sexual interests do not have a mental disorder. Rather, it is a perverse and willing choice that engage in such acts. To compare these people to women who genuinely have a psychiatric issue is inhumane.

While my mother did not hurt her children, she hurt herself. Every time I smell a certain smell, I have flashbacks to when she hurt herself. I will never forget that lost look in her eyes. I pray that one day I too don’t walk around with that same lost look. Like so many other mental health issues, incarceration is not the answer. Rather, it is the problem. As filled as prisons are today, there is no way that the mentally ill will get the care that they really need. Rather, the deplorable conditions only make the conditions worse. No one wants to have cancer. To think that someone would want to be mentally ill is ignorant beyond words.

Let us not judge or we shall be judged. If indeed Ebony is not ill then I say, carry out punishment to the fullest extent of the law. However, let us make sure that’s the case. Shame on those who have disorders such a bipolar or schizophrenia and because of medication are functional judging this woman. Your road is not the same as hers. Shame on society for not accepting that those mental disorders that only affect women real and not some made-up figment of our imagination. Shame on government for not doing more. Congrats to the person who decided that they should do more and created this White House Petition. Hopefully, you will do as I did and sign. We owe it to ourselves as women to protect ourselves before the right is taken from us.

If you you or someone you know is suffering from post partum depression/psychosis please advocate for treatment and contact these sources if you need help:

Words of Wisdom:

In health,

Maliyka

Depression: Real or not

20121022-104842.jpg Yesterday, I was finally able to catch up with my mother and as usual, our conversation touched on varying topics. One topic was depression. My mother’s belief was that depression really isn’t a mental health issue. Not having an immediate answer I ha to pause before answering. After thinking about it for a few minutes, my response was that for some it really is.

My mother’s statement heavy on my mind still prompted me to do a google search with the criteria, “Is depression really a mental illness.” It is typical with searches like this that at least one conspiracy based search result will pop up. These conspiracy based search results are usually authored by someone who have self-proclaimed themselves as an expert on the subject. They usually lack any formal education in the subject matter. As it happens, the second search result that popped up was a man who believes as my mother does. The difference is that this gentleman is actually a licensed psychologist by the name of, Philip Hickey, Ph.D. According to Dr. Hickey, depression is not a mental illness rather it is an adaptive mechanism which, is natures way of telling the individual to make some life changes. He likens the body’s response to how it would respond if it experienced physical pain [see article].

While I understand both my mother’s and Dr. Hickey’s point of view. I disagree up to a certain point. There are some individually whose depression has really become a form of mental illness. To trivialize their condition as a health professional is crass and unbecoming. These are the individuals who are so depressed that they cannot function normally in society. According to an article on Psychcentral, depression is a mental disorder rather than a disease. This definition is perhaps one of the most important definitions when it comes to depression. When depression is no longer looked at as a disease it becomes understandable when classified as an illness.

The thing is that, everyone at some point has experienced some form of depression. Granted it may not have been to the extreme where clinical intervention is needed never the less it existed. To those people I say that you are not mentally ill, Rather, Dr. Hickey’s definition is quite apropos. Most often, it is the body’s way of saying, “Something must change.” If your depression is more than the occasional bout, it is more than just a moment. If your depressive state is so great that you can no longer function, it is more than a tiny problem [other symptoms]These are the people who the medical profession should be targeting and are targeting.

To the individuals who are more just occasionally depressed know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Know that you don’t have to snuff out your life to see that light. While I don’t know how it feels to be clinically depressed, I have been depressed a time or two and it was no fun. I didn’t want to be depressed. It happened and it was a dark moment in my life. Luckily, i was able to snap out of it as fast as I sunk into it. I understand that, not everyone has that ability and for you myheart aches. To be in that deep, dark place all of the time I am sure is no picnic. Hopefully, with medical advancements there will be that now elusive happy shot that will prevent depression from taking firm hold. Until then, I say be as happy as you can be. Know that as cliche as it may sound, God will not place a burden on you greater than you can bear. Stay strong. I promise that in the end it will all get better.

Today’s prescription: Don’t allow anyone or anything to put you in such a state where you no longer can function. Giving power over yourself to someone else will lead to self destruction.

In health,
Maliyka is health

The elephant in the room: Mental health and color

“African-American Black people are not crazy!” Sounds familiar? It should. It is a sentiment that much uninformed Black people believe. The truth of the matter is that they couldn’t be furthest from the truth. Mental illness does not know color. It only knows people and it can attach itself to anyone at any given time. Point in case Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Here is an educated man who seemingly on the outside appeared to be well however, his recent diagnosis says otherwise.

The American Psychiatric Association has a page dedicated specifically to the African-American community. Contrary to misguided belief, mental illness in African-American communities are similar to the that of the general population.  Just like their counterparts, most of them are functional in that they are able to keep up good mental health.  This does not negate the fact that these people who are mentally ill need treatment.

From a cultural perspective, mental illness is the elephant in the room that no wants to discuss and that is largely the problem. Failure to accept that this disease affects African-Americans is one of the reasons why there is a lack of culturally competent care. The ones who suffer in silence the most are African-American men who rarely if ever seek treatment for mental illness.  Dr. William Lawson in a recent interview stated, “Many African-Americans have a lot of negative feelings about, or not even aware of mental health services. They may not be aware of the symptoms of many mental disorders, or they may believe that to be mentally ill is a sign of weakness or a sign of a character fault” NPR. This statement could not be any more true as is evidenced by the fact that Rep. Jackson, Jr. took two months before he opened up to the world that he too was suffering from the silent disease…mental health.

No one knows why mental illness exist. One of my co-workers who is a psychiatric doctor shudders at the world crazy. Rather he believes that the mentally ill have a brain dysfunction. Being mentally ill does not make you stupid. In fact, there are a lot of intellectual geniuses who are considered be mentally ill. It has been said that Albert Einstein was mentally ill. Yet he was a genius.

As an African-American, one should not feel like they are weak for being mentally ill. It is said that knowing is half the battle. knowing that you have an illness puts you in a place to get the best treatment.  Know that you came from Kings and Queens and being mentally ill does not make you weak rather not dealing with the issue makes you weak. With proper treatment, you can be just as strong as those who don’t suffer from this disease.

Today’s Prescription: What will be will be. You can’t change it but you can learn to live with. In your quiet space repeat the Serenity Prayer to yourself and remember that you are not weak rather you are ill.

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
courage to change the things we can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”

Mental Health: A fact of life

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Depression, schizophrenia, paranoid, bi-polar, etc., etc. At one point these words have been said around us possibly even directed towards us. We all know someone who has been labeled with one of these words. That someone might just be you. Regardless of who it may be, the stigma tied to all of these diagnosis is ugly.

Mental illness affects so many people from so many walks of life. It does not see color, ethnicity, finances, gender, etc. Rather it sees people. In the United States, mental health is a huge problem. Public Health folks like myself, are constantly looking at this complex health issue. According to the World Health Organization, “mental illness results in more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. Other published studies report that about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime (CDC). Mental illness also places a financial burden on society. In the United States alone, it cost about $300 billion. That was in 2002. With the increasing new diagnosis, I am sure that oat has skyrocketed.

Real talk, mental illness is a disease that one really as no control over. Abstinence won’t prevent it. Money doesn’t stop it from happening. Love has no hold over it. Just as easily as you were sane yesterday, today you could be diagnosed as mentally ill. It is a disease that deserves a high amount of awareness. It is a disease that some communities i.e. African-American need to understand exist within their ranks too.

To the mentally ill, know that you are loved. You are not alone. Someone can help you. If you need help but don’t know where to turn here are some resources:

Mental Health America by State

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Web MD Mental Helpline List

Today’s prescription: take a deep breath and breathe. Try not to stress over the little things. Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness (Richard Carlson).

In health,
Maliyka is health