Today, in 20 minutes from now, where I live, at least, Anderson Cooper airs. He’s doing a segment about Moms & Medication – Mothers who take medication to be a better parent. Anti-anxiety pills, specifically.
I want to be happy they’re covering this but after last night’s initial tweet which has several people I know up in arms, I just can’t. I’m holding my breath and will be tuning in to watch just to see if they cover things properly and make a clear exception that there ARE parents out there who do need medication for mental health issues just to live, not to be a better parent.
Last night, Anderson’s Twitter account for his show tweeted this gem:
Taking mood stabilizers to be a better parent? What do you think of this new trend? Tweet back: #ALParenting
— Anderson Live (@andersonlive) March 3, 2013
If there are parents out there truly doing this, yikes. And if this is just Anderson’s way of spinning the situation into a hype, then shame on them. There are multiple reasons a parent would legitimately need psychiatric medication – not just to be a better parent.
Watch with me, follow along on Twitter (I’m @unxpctdblessing), and follow the hashtag #ALParenting.
I’ll be tuning in and pushing back, using both the #ALParenting hashtag as well as the #ppdchat hashtag. Please join me if you can.
This post will be updated with reactions – and if you write anything or have any comments, please do not hesitate to share them here as well.
Update, after watching the show:
Overall, it went much better than I thought it would. However, as with all discussions about mental health, particularly ones squeezed into short segments and sensationalized for daytime viewing, things did go wrong. Below is a short list of what I was happy to see and then a few things I wasn’t happy to see:
Happy to see:
- Dr. Michele Borba emphasize the seriousness of maternal depression and getting treatment for it. (Also emphasizing that depressed mothers will and should do anything to get help for their illness)
- Emphasis, again, by Dr. Borba, that we, as mothers, need to get to know our hot points, learn how to deal with them, and how to deal with winding down as a family so we pass on practical de-stressing techniques to our children.
- Anderson Cooper emphasize, at the end of the discussion, how important it is that if you have an issue with depression or mental illness, to see a doctor about your issues.
Not happy to see:
- The anti-med member of the panel ask a member of the audience this question: “If your son were to come up to you and say he had a bad day, would you just tell him to take a pill?” The audience member was stunned. Absolutely stunned. So was I. Just because I took medication after I had my children did not mean I only coped by taking a pill. A pill is merely one part of therapy, there are many facets to caring for yourself. There’s a line you can cross into addiction and yes, that is absolutely unhealthy (the anti-med member’s parents had crossed this line), and it doesn’t allow room for healthy coping methods while in the midst of the addiction, but it doesn’t mean you get to toss a blanket of your experience on everyone else. I am sorry that was your experience, but you absolutely do not get to judge me based on that at all.
- Failure to mention mental illness in any serious way until halfway through the segment. Most of the discussion involved the emphasis on “taking pills to be a better Mother.” No mention of diagnosis was made, nothing. I understand privacy but if you’re on a national talk show to discuss taking meds, make sure you mention why otherwise you’re just feeding the stigma that Anderson put forth last night which is Moms taking pills to be a better parent as part of a trend. Postpartum Depression and Maternal mental health issues (paternal too) are not part of a TREND. They happen, they are real, and they deserve honest and informed coverage.
On to this afternoon when Katie Couric will have a segment about Moms and mental health as well. Today is gonna be fun, isn’t it?
Share your opinions below!
I meant to leave a comment a week ago. Have had this window up on my computer ever since, as a reminder to leave one. Feels like I was just at the show yesterday, when it’s been over a week now (and I still haven’t had a chance to watch it via DVR). This post is awesome. Caught everything that I couldn’t catch while sitting in one of Anderson’s tweet seats, thanks to the challenges of the 53 spaces the 2 handles and hashtag took up. But, hey, at least it was a neat experience. Now, as for the briefest of brief coverage on this all-too-important-but-somehow-condensed-into-a-less-than-fifteen-minute segment did not do the topic justice. Not at all. The 3 guests barely had about 3 opp’s on average to speak…and before you knew it, we were onto the next segment with Marlee Matlin, who was there for < 5 minutes…what the? If the topic of postpartum mood disorders is to be covered at all, it deserves more than 15 minutes. Especially when the show's producers tried to lure viewers to watch with a highly misleading headline. Disappointing, to say the least! :-/
Hi Lauren, I’ve been reading just a couple PPMD blogs and following along on Twitter for awhile, but have just recently started diving in a bit deeper. Let me first say I think all the advocacy work you’re doing for PPMD is great. Second, I didn’t watch the show so… there’s that. And third, I absolutely DO NOT, in ANY WAY, pass judgement on those who choose to medicate as part of their PPMD treatment plan.
With that said, I’m also not offended by the word “trend.” I think I’m coming at it from an engineer’s perspective. To me all that “trend” means is a relationship in the data. In this case that would mean an increase in the number of mothers taking anti-anxiety meds over time. (Which may or may not be true… I haven’t actually seen the data, and newsy places tend to get these things wrong a lot of the time.)
HOWEVER, what I think is often overlooked is the role awareness plays. Maybe more moms are taking meds. But maybe that’s because society/the medical field/what-have-you are doing a better job identifying PPMDs. Maybe more mothers who NEED treatment are seeking help. And getting it!
If the thyroid is out of balance after giving birth, with an undiagnosed and therefore untreated thyroid problem existing, it can literally shut down the Pituitary Gland, with pregnancy hormones locked inside, and as such can cause varying degrees of depressed states – as well as a postpartum psychotic break. A psychotic break can occur for males if the thyroid is out of whack; society does not tell them its in their head – so, why the double-standard? Medical students, not trained to recognize, properly diagnose and/or adequately treat a ‘maternal mood disorder’, the term, postpartum, was removed from medical literature between 1972 and 1992, are part of the “medical black hole” existing still today. Twenty years of potential research – lost! “The Postpartum Care and Research Act”, passed years ago on behalf of Carol Blocker’s daughter Melanie, needs to be implemented by the National Institute of Health, and the NIH needs to do the research necessary NOW to bring about REAL positive change toward intervention and prevention on behalf of all women who are found in a compromised postpartum period, for whatever reason. Watch for my new Blog coming soon, and get ready to join the Women’s Maternal Health Revolution! “We cannot nurture without first being nurtured AND we must heal ourselves first to become mentors for the mothers of tomorrow”. Vow’s Verse Esp. for Each one of You. Way to go Women — Forward :)
Hi Lauren – Great post, great advocacy and great coverage of the issue! I DVR d the show and will watch it today!. It sounds like a good show, at least you reported there was some serious coverage of mental illness and also that person who asked that question actually served a purpose, she helped educate others about how medication is just part of many lifestyle changes made to cope with an illness. Thanks for you advocacy! and for your many hours of volunteer work! Rock on! .
I think I may have become absolutely furious has I been able to watch this programme in the UK. Lauren you are doing an incredible job in providing an alternative voice to challenge the stigma and negative views of mental health, and particularly parental illness in the USA. Keep it up hon!
While I didn’t see the segment, I remember seeing an article that did the same thing. The quip to get attention was something like ‘Moms on depressions meds have shorter kids.” It makes me mad either way, because I don’t take medication to be a better parent. I take medication to keep me functioning, instead of curling up into a call and crying in a corner. Does this help me be a better parent? Yes, because I’m not focused on my screwed up brain chemistry, I can focus on my child. Medication is one part of getting better, not the whole package.
Medication does not make me better at anything. Does it make me feel like a human? Absolutely. It pulled me out of the dark recesses of my illness and put me right back in my shoes. Medication treats the underlying problem like planter wart cream…your feet won’t be any faster or prettier. I believe that my struggles made me a stronger person…more appreciative of life and my role as a parent. That? Makes me a good Mom.
My illness doesn’t define my parenting nor do the medications I take.
I take medications to save my life…not because I want to be better at anything.
I didn’t see the segment, but based on what you’re reporting, I definitely share in your frustration. Meds aren’t a “quick fix” or a “pick me up” for a bad day, they are a method of treating a chronic chemical imbalance that causes many of us to over-react & blow things out of proportion that most other people wouldn’t. They don’t “cure” bad days, they don’t make you happy, they help you keep things in perspective. God, sometimes I wish I could talk to these people and explain that.
So yes, being on meds DOES make me a better mom, but only indirectly so, because they help me be a better and more stable “me”. It’s about long-term self-care and stability, it’s not a diet pill for the brain.
I love this line: “it’s not a diet pill for the brain.”
I agree whole-heartedly. There’s a LOT of work which goes on in addition to taking a pill when you have a mental illness, just as with taking insulin when you’re diabetic. You don’t get to just take the insulin and then eat whatever you want, no, you still have to watch your diet and your sugar intake and monitor everything. There is no quick fix. Mental health is just the same.
Thanks for commenting!
I love this comment!