That is the personal mission of Eric Dyches, who lost his wife, Emily, due to a postpartum related panic attack.
The way we treat behavioral health, including postpartum depression, has been taboo in previous generations. “My generation and especially my parents' generation, and their parents' generation, you could not talk about mental illness. It was a major character flaw. You were weak,” said Dyches, founder of the Emily Effect, a resource for postpartum depression named for his late wife.
But now we are living in a time where healthcare providers are asking about our emotional health and resource groups like The Emily Effect working to change the culture.
The symptoms for postpartum depression include:
- Anxiety and agitation
- Considerable weight loss or weight gain
- Decreased interest or pleasure in daily activities
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy
- Mental slowness and an inability to concentrate
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Let’s begin with how we identify the disorder rather than labeling a person as being the trouble.
“That’s important to separate, the person from the disease. And it's just like diabetes, it requires treatment in many cases and no one's ashamed to tell people they have diabetes. Right? So it's not that person. It doesn't need to define them,” Dyches said.
Dyches illustrated one part of the stigma – the guilt. Such as with the guilt a new mother can have if she needs to take a much-needed rest. Sleep is necessary for everyone yet it can trigger guilt as she believes baby, family, and the world come before her.
“Let's accept the fact that it's okay to receive help. And guarding that sleep for moms is one of the most valuable things that we can do. So, find a way. Dads out there, caregivers, neighbors, grandmas; find a way to protect that sleep and make sure that a mom doesn't have to apologize for sleeping. Let them sleep when they want, how much they want, and you be there to help out,” Dyches said.
It’s not on the new mother to fix it and do it alone. We can come together as a community to help provide a resource of safety, help and comfort.
“Let's be open to new norms. Let's develop new traditions,” Dyches said.