How It Is #3: What to Say to Someone with Postnatal Depression

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26 September 2012 by thaliakr

 

What to say to someone with postnatal / postpartum depression | Sacraparental.com

The numbers are clear.  If you know a few parents, you know someone who’s had postnatal depression, whether they blogged about it or not.

In response to my posts about my experiences, here and here, I’ve discovered half a dozen of my friends have been through it recently, and another few a long time ago.

"Under the horse chestnut tree", 1 p...

So going on the twin assumptions that a) there’s a good chance your friends with a newborn are struggling and b) there’s a good chance they won’t volunteer that they’re struggling, here are seven helpful things to say to new parents if you want to offer tangible support.

The mum is more likely to have the depression itself, but her partner has to carry a whopping burden if she does, so these are things to say to all caregivers involved in the life of a new baby.  And anyone else you want to show your friendship to.

  1. ‘I really enjoy doing dishes/playing with toddlers/mowing lawns.  Can I please do these/take her to the playground/come around on Wednesday to do yours?’
    Be specific in your offers of help.  If you just say, ‘What can I do?’ you’re more likely to be turned down out of misguided politeness.
  2. ‘Can I take the baby out for a walk for an hour or two while you catch up on sleep?’
    Sleep deprivation is a huge component of depression and is tough for any parent, however well they are feeling.
  3. If you know you are a good listener and are ready to hear whatever comes:
    ‘If you’d ever like to talk about how things are going, I’m here to listen.’
  4. Ditto:
    ‘Is motherhood/fatherhood turning out how you expected?’
  5. ‘I’d like to bring a meal around so you don’t have to cook.  Should it be for the freezer, or for tonight?’
  6. If you have the capacity to make this offer:
    ‘A new baby can be hard work.  You can call me anytime of the day or night.  You are not alone in this.’
  7. ‘You guys are used to being pretty on top of things. You don’t have to be, though, with us. You can always come to us on a bad day.’

Arohanui to the real-life people who said versions of these to us in the early weeks, and to the many other people who offered their kindnesses.

If you’ve ever had periods of illness, grief or vulnerability, you’ll probably have ideas too.  What are the most helpful things people said to you, or you wish they’d said?

This is the third in a series of posts on my experience of postnatal depression.  You can catch up on the first, second and fourth. Please feel free to share them using the buttons below.

You can see the whole series list here.

What to say to someone with postnatal / postpartum depression | Sacraparental.com

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8 thoughts on “How It Is #3: What to Say to Someone with Postnatal Depression

  1. Angela says:

    #5 is beautifully worded. Nothing like receiving a meal at 4pm and being told it should really not be put in the freezer! The biggest thing that comes to mind for me is not to promise you will do something and not follow through with it. And actually another that comes to mind is something I learnt regarding giving items to the poor – but it can apply in these kinds of situations too – whatever you are giving, give your very best, someone who is walking very close to the edge may be tipped right over the edge if they’re made to feel like a charity case.

  2. […] a series on my experience of postnatal depression.  Feel free to catch up on the first, second and third, and feel free to pass any of them around using the share buttons below. Share […]

  3. […] reflecting on my experience of postnatal depression. Feel free to head also to How It Is #2, How It Is #3: What to Say and How It Is #4: On A Bad Day, and feel free to pass any of them around, if they’re helpful, […]

  4. […] reflecting on my experience of postnatal depression. Feel free to head also to How It Is #1, How It Is #3: What to Say and How It Is #4: On A Bad Day, and please pass any of them around, if they’re helpful, […]

  5. […] on my experience of postnatal depression. Feel free to head also to How It Is #1, How It Is #2, How It Is #3: What to Say and How It Is #4: On A Bad Day, and feel free to pass any of them around, if they’re helpful, […]

  6. […] I gave an adapted list of tips of how to help and what to say, based on the third post in this […]

  7. […] the Silk Ring of Kvetching) and offering support to people in hardship (it can be hard to know what to say and this is a good […]

  8. […] skills with this guide. 2. If that’s a bit hard-core for you at the moment, here’s a list of useful ways to show support and hospitality to people who are struggling. Pick something to do this week – and ask any kids you are doing Lent with which one they […]

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