Parenting: How to support yourself and others with postnatal mental health

As it was World Mental Health day at the weekend, it seemed a good time to talk all things mental health and how to support others and yourself with supporting a healthy mind. 

We often associate mental heath problems with certain stereotypes and the social discourse is usually around 'victim blaming' i.e. it's because someone isn't strong enough, or isn't doing enough to help themselves and of course, that's not how it works. But there are many things that are not known about mental health that might just make people more aware and able to be kind. 

Particularly for new mummy's who are at a vulnerable point in life, and unable to run away from the lions, as so to speak. If you imagine that in the prehistoric era, pregnant animals were reliant on the 'village' to protect them and were not expected to hunt, fight or gather. If we view humans as animals, which is what we really are, it becomes easier to see why we can sometimes suffer with modern life and all of the stresses that come with it.

The need to work, earn money, raise children alone without a village to support us, perhaps suffering in un-supportive or even abusive relationships, or living with a major lack of sleep that can affect chemical and hormonal balance.

Here are some things you maybe didn't know about mental health:

- someone who suffers with mental health looks just like someone who doesn’t

- someone who suffers with mental health issues will often smile to ease the discomfort of those around them.

- people can be high functioning holding down jobs, looking after others etc and still suffering on the inside

- someone may find it very hard to reach out to others or tell them they are suffering and instead become withdrawn or say they are busy, rather than explain their anxiety or depression has flared up

- If someone does reach out in whatever way to ask for help, things are at a critical point. No one would make themselves vulnerable if they didn’t have to.

- in that vain, it’s important to never marginalise someone’s feelings if they are brave enough to share with you.

- people do not make up mental health issues for attention. It is also not a competition. Everyone has a story, a trauma or past experience that no one knows about.

- above all, be kind as mental health struggles are not visible on the outside. People often say it would be easier to have a broken leg as at least people would see the pain.

Also specifically around postnatal depression and anxiety, it is not being depressed about having a baby. It is a recipe of poor sleep, chemical and hormonal imbalance, it can last a long time or come on many months after having a baby, past PTSD and trauma can be triggered, you may have anxiety of love and loss, as becoming a parent shows you how precious and fragile life can be, people may shut down to cope and many more things that are out of that person’s control.

It is common to feel alone when suffering with mental health but it’s important to tell someone you trust and there are many sources of help via your GP.

My family are everything and my reason for being true to myself. I will always hold their hand through life’s challenges.

I find being outside in nature and noticing the small things really helps to bring me back to the present.

How do you look after your mental health?

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