The real reason mums refuse to seek help for postnatal depression
Did you know that a 'bad mother' stigma prevents women from seeking help for postnatal depression? Read on to find out more and what helplines are available.
You know how it is in Singapore – competitiveness, pragmatism and the pressure to always be better than the best. Motherhood is no exception. Mums are often stretching themselves thin and they fear judgment. They fear it so much that they would rather suffer in silence than to seek help for postnatal depression!
Studies show that about 8% of new mothers in Singapore suffer from postnatal depression. In fact, experts believe that this figure is not an accurate representation for many cases go unreported.
So why do women not want to seek help for postnatal depression?
Why women don’t seek help for professional judgment
Silvia Wetherell, lead counsellor, The Choolani Clinic, Mount Elizabeth Novena Medical Centre, explains that women here fear judgment and labelling.
There is a huge stigma about therapy and help. It is viewed as taboo and we keep perpetuating this idea, which is not helping. Women who need help have to be helped.
And if you think this only happens here, you’re wrong. A survey in the British Journal of General Practice found that postnatal depression affects 10 to 15% of women after having a baby.
People often perceive your ability to cope with motherhood as a reflection of how good a mother you are. If you can’t cope, people stigmatise you.
She can’t handle motherhood? She’s ‘spoilt’, she’s lousy, she’s a bad mother.
It doesn’t help that the older generation in Singapore doesn’t welcome the idea of therapy and counseling.
A Singaporean great-grandmother and ad-hoc confinement nanny in her 60’s states,
In our time we gave birth to so many children and we looked after them ourselves. Our husbands didn’t help, we didn’t have maternity leave, we worked hard, we did the housework, we raised the kids. How come we never heard of postnatal depression? The younger generation is too spoilt! No wonder they are called the strawberry generation!
Sounds familiar? That leads me to the next point.
2. Getting dismissed
First comes the labelling, then comes the dismissing. Many women in Singapore hesitate, or refuse to seek treatment for postnatal depression because the people around them dismiss their concerns.
It takes a lot for these women to acknowledge that they need help and to take that brave step to approach those around them for help. But it really doesn’t help when they are told:
There’s no such thing. It’s all in your head. You are imagining it.
Sadly, it’s not just the older generation. Some husbands say the same thing. A working mum shares her experience.
I wanted to seek help for postnatal depression, so I spoke to my husband about it. He said that it’s probably hormones, or just me getting depressed from being at home then going back to work and dealing with all the changes. He said it’s normal.
But somehow I knew it wasn’t normal. How could it be normal that I kept looking at my baby and did not feel any love or emotion towards her? My journey as a mother had just started but I hated it before I could even experience it proper. How could that be normal?
The lack of support and understanding makes mums not want to seek help for postnatal depression. This is not healthy for them.
3. Be strong, they say
In other scenarios, mums do have people around them acknowledging their struggles, but only to tell them to soldier on and fight their battles.
Motherhood is not easy, you want a baby, you must be prepared to deal with the challenges. Be strong. If you are strong nothing will affect you.
This is a common mantra that the older generation chants to new mothers. And because of this, mums choose to suffer in silence instead of getting the help that they deserve.
Silvia takes a firm stand on this matter.
Women suffering in silence, we need to stop this. Part of being strong means acknowledging that there is a problem and taking the necessary steps to rectifying that problem.
4. Fears and anxiety
Apart from the stigmas, mums are terrified that their baby will be taken away from them if they are clinically diagnosed with postnatal depression. It makes them feel as if they aren’t capable of being a mother and thus the child should be in safer hands.
Silvia assures mums that unless it is a case where there is a serious risk of the mother harming the baby, or a mother is diagnosed with postnatal psychosis, the baby will not be taken away.
Likewise, many women fear that they might lose their jobs, or have responsibilities and promotions held back because postnatal depression might be likened to a mental illness that makes them unfit for the position.
What mums need to know is that all details of their therapy sessions will be kept strictly confidential unless they pose a threat to themselves of their babies. And in such a scenario, it’s for the better that there is intervention.
Where and how to seek help for postnatal depression
If there is early intervention, through proper therapy and counselling, or medication where necessary, things will get better.
But if you continue pushing yourself, things might not go as planned and you may completely break down, or be in a position where the only solution is to have your baby taken away and I’m sure no one wants that.
Here are some options:
- Association for Women for Action and Research (AWARE). Aware has a phone helpline (1800-774-5935) and they also provide counselling services. For more information, visit their website aware.org.sg/.
- Mindful Mums. For all issues pertaining to becoming a mum and motherhood itself, you can turn to their support groups which are free of charge.
If you want to seek the help of support groups, here are some of Silvia’s recommendations:
So mums, here are the common reasons that women in Singapore refuse to seek help for postnatal depression. I cannot emphasise enough that you are not doing yourself, your baby or your other family members a favour by choosing to suffer in silence.
If you suffer from postnatal depression, or even if you think you do, please get help.
Source: The Telegraph