Green Shoes, The NFL, and Mental Health Stigma


The NFL is making a “Crucial Catch” this month but it has nothing to do with Mental Health. Instead, they have been partnered with various breast cancer organizations to raise awareness and funds for battling breast cancer.

Participation started back in 2008 with a myriad of events as evidenced in this article, “NFL Supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. This year, the awareness campaign continues. Not only do players wear pink gear, but it is also auctioned off to raise funds for research. Which, in theory, is a great idea, and as someone who has lost a family member to breast cancer, I understand the desire to increase awareness and provide funds for research.

As a football fan, however, I hate the month of October. I cannot stand pink. I have hated the colour ever since I brilliantly decided at age 7 that Pepto Bismol Pink was a terrific colour for my walls and I lived in that Pepto “Abismol” Pink room for nearly 5 years before escaping it into a soothing forest green room with merlot trim.

My point here is not about the colour. It’s about the NFL ignoring an awareness week which occurs during the month of October.

In case you do not follow mental health news OR the NFL, there has been a lot of discussion regarding Brandon Marshall’s desire to wear green cleats during tonight’s Bears v. Giants (don’t get me started on the Giants’ 0-5 giddyup to the season because that’s a whole ‘nother post) game. The NFL flat out told Marshall he couldn’t do it. Then they said he could but that he would be fined. Marshall plans to pay the fine and match it with a charity donation. A donation most articles make clear will go to a cancer-care organization with the mention that he is also trying to work out details of donating to an organization making a difference in the Mental Health World.

Here’s the thing, though, from my perspective – with the big brouhaha the NFL has made regarding Marshall’s desire to wear green cleats, it seems to the casual observer as if they do not want to raise any awareness regarding Mental Health issues. On the other hand, however, their very refusal and the back and forth with Marshall does have people talking about his condition and desire to raise awareness. The NFL’s aversion to Marshall’s desire to raise awareness on the field also makes it seem, to me, that the NFL cares more about the state of a woman’s breasts vs. the state of her mind.

Marshall struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, something an article in SI from May 2012 describes as evidence of the strides the NFL has made in making the mental health of players matter:

The hope is to create a stigma-free environment in which players feel more comfortable working through their mental health issues. Bears receiver Brandon Marshall reached a breakthrough of sorts last July, when he announced that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder; the moment hints at the strides engagement programs are making behind the scenes.

 

The NFL also runs a Life Line specifically for players, former players, and their families, accessible on the web and via phone. The Life Line was launched in 2012. I wasn’t aware of it until today as I was Googling for this piece.

“There is no higher priority for the National Football League than the health and wellness of our players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to personnel and fans at the time. (quoted from CNN) 

In addition, the NFL has been adding more and more psychologists to behind the scenes team rosters, something the previously mentioned SI article details.

With this internal attention to the mental health of their players and families, isn’t it time the NFL brought some of their powerful presence in the psyche of the American male to the table and made mental health awareness an issue? With the loss of Junior Seau, last year’s incident with Kansas City’s Jovan Belcher, Paul Oliver’s recent suicide and the loss of several other players in the same manner, the NFL needs to do more than just support mental health behind the scenes because without public action, it is all too easy to assume that nothing is being done. It is also extremely easy to assume there is no support when you have the NFL threatening a player wanting to do something as simple as wear a different colour cleat to raise awareness for Mental Health issues, something said player struggles with himself.

I get that October is taken for Breast Cancer Awareness.

All I’m asking for is one weekend where the players wear Green, as Brandon Marshall wants to do tonight, to raise awareness for Mental Health Issues. If they can do it for Breast Cancer and raise millions of dollars for research and awareness campaigns, imagine what they could do if they dedicated the same amount of energy to Mental Health research and awareness, particularly in a sport with a hard-core dedicated male audience taught by society NOT to talk about their emotions.

For now, though, I guess we will suffer through the month o’pink and hope everyone has healthy boobs instead of healthy minds.

WAY TO GO, NFL.

Saturday Sundries: When Suicide becomes reality


Saturday Sundries Banner

Morning y’all.

I hope you have imbibed at least one cup of coffee because today I am going to get serious. Life and death serious.

Over the course of my time as a peer advocate/support person for women and families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders, I have faced suicidal mothers more than once. Each time it is draining. The first time I faced this issue I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what to do. The first time I faced it on Twitter, I recruited people to support me via DM, reached out to emergency contacts, and the mom connected with someone via phone. It wasn’t me but that did not matter. What mattered was that she reached out and held on to hope. She got help and is still here.

Over time I have grown more comfortable at dealing with someone in a suicidal crisis. Each time it still drains me though. But it’s part of what I do. I am very careful to ensure care for myself during and after an intense time of support. I watch a lot of comedy, exercise, and talk with others honestly and openly. I love that my support asks how I am doing if I’ve clearly gone through supporting someone.

I have had to learn how to help others. I have also learned how to help others deal with very real tragedies resulting from the often invisible illness that is a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Right now, our community, those who suffer from, have survived, and fight for those who are struggling, is coming to grips with the events which led to the death of Miriam Carey. There’s a wonderful article over at USA Today dealing with the situation. The article covers PMAD’s respectfully and take the time to differentiate the various types of disorders. If you read any article about what happened, make it this one.

Do you know facts and statistics about suicide? Would you know what to do if someone you loved or knew admitted to active suicidal feelings? Would you be able to recognize the signs of potential suicide? It’s important to be able to do so… think of it as basic first aid for the mind. Just as our bodies can hurt, our minds hurt too. And sometimes? Sometimes we’re not capable of recognizing the extent of the injury until it’s too late.

You are not at all helpless when it comes to suicide. You CAN do something. Start with this list over at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Know how to report suicidal behaviour on Facebook. Program the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number -1-800-273-8255- in your phone.

Start a discussion about suicide with friends. If someone jokes about it, correct them by saying that it is a serious matter and deserves serious attention, following that statement up with facts and statistics. It is absolutely not something one should ever joke about. Ever.

Despite all this, sometimes we lose people. Even if we know all the signs and know exactly what to do. We can’t put our plans into motion if we do not know the plans and thoughts of those around us. It hurts like hell to lose someone to suicide. It is a pain I know well. It is a pain others I know also know well. We can do everything right and still have suicide implode our lives. How do we cope then?

When we have lost someone to suicide, we are then termed as “survivors of suicide.” People who have survived someone who completed suicide. You are not alone in this, not at all. There are others out there who are going through the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the regret, the what if’s… the entire gamut of emotions one goes through after losing a loved one to suicide. There are a few online resources. The first one is at Suicidology on their Suicide Survivors page. Then there is Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors.

There are also friends and family. Some of them may not understand your grief. They may not understand the length of it or the manner in which you choose to grieve. But grief is different for all of us, just as life is different for all of us. Grieve in the manner which feels best to you and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Let it out, let it flow through you, and process your emotions in the best possible way for YOU.

Bottom line – suicide is not something we need to remain silent about. It’s not something we should continue shoving in a corner and pretending it doesn’t happen. It happens, to everyone in all walks of life. We ALL are affected by suicide.

Let’s get together and talk about it – open up, let people know they are loved, they matter, and we do care. Today, take the time to smile at a stranger. Say hello and ask how they are and mean it – stick around for the answer, don’t drift off into the crowd. Offer to help someone with something. Do a good deed. You may just be the one thing they’ve been needing to brighten their ever so darkened life.

After that good deed? Start a conversation somewhere about how important it is to discuss suicide and the issues that can cause it but also what to do when the mere thought of it is looming on the horizon. You may just save a life doing both. And that, my friends, is why we all matter.

Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones But Words….


I started this post the other day after a comment was left on a post I promoted on Facebook. Then I had to walk away because I started down a path I did not want to go down. This was a difficult post for me to write as it forces me to revisit a meeting which left me both enraged and shaken. I’ve calmed down quite a bit and the following is a much more polite response than the one I started the other day.

The post is a wonderful interview of Dr. Katherine Wisner by Walker Karraa. The interview, found here, focuses on Postpartum Mood Disorders, of course, but also addresses the challenge and controversy of screening mothers for the presence of Postpartum Mood Disorders.

Screening is a hot topic and has been for quite awhile. There are a lot of unknowns regarding when to screen, how to screen, what happens after a positive screen, liability for care of the patient, when to refer, etc. Bottom line, I feel, is that we need to screen in order to start the dialogue about Postpartum Mood Disorders with care providers in every field that comes in contact with both expecting and new mamas. We also need to work more diligently to create supportive nets of care for women in our communities – coalitions of OB’s, Midwives, Pediatricians, IBCLC’s, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, therapists, doulas, and other various caregivers for pregnant women and young children. It needs to be comprehensive.

Those of us who advocate for the care and support of families battling Postpartum Mood Disorders must be well-versed in all things relating to pregnancy and postpartum. Our scope of knowledge must include a basic grasp on the rights of the expectant woman and as a new mothers. This is in addition to the psychiatric knowledge we also hold and are constantly researching in order to better arm new and expectant mothers.

It is exhausting sometimes, to read all of this information. I myself have suffered from information overload. But, empowering new and expectant mothers to make healthy and better decisions for their care and therefore for their families, is what I have been called to do so read I must.

In the past couple of years I haven’t been reading as much, I’ll admit, but prior to that, I read voraciously. I dove into all things birth related. So when there was a chance to go see Henci Goer at a local get together on August 26, 2010, I went.

Henci, a well-known author and advocate for Lamaze birth and healthier women-empowered births, was someone I admired.

Until the night I met her and discussed my experiences which led to my own advocacy with her.

Henci, after discussing at length, her new project, completely shot down my experience with a very dismissive sentence, the gist of which was left in a comment at Karraa’s interview with Dr. Katherine Wisner I referenced above.

Here was a woman, who seemingly was all about empowering women and improving their birth experiences, failing to even acknowledge the difficulties I experienced after my own. I didn’t experience Postpartum Depression, according to Goer, my experiences were directly related to my birthing experience and therefore weren’t my fault but that of the system’s.

While I agree there are far too many interventions in the modern birthing realm for many mothers and it’s sad that organizations like Solace for Mothers even have to exist, to shoot down the experience of another and how she has worked through it in one dismissive sentence is almost as bad as what my first OB did to me.

PTSD QuoteTrauma is about perception. It’s not about what happened to you, it’s about how you perceive what happened to you. This perception is shaded by our own personal experiences and baggage. These experiences and this baggage also directly affects how we process our experience after our brush with trauma.

No one has the right to question a woman’s perception of her birth experience.

No one has the right to re-frame her experience FOR her. It is hers and hers alone to process. It is hers to share as she feels necessary, with whatever details she deems necessary.

The comment Henci left on Karraa’s interview with Dr. Wisner reads as follows:

I am extremely concerned that the focus on screening for postpartum depression using an instrument solely designed for this purpose will miss diagnosis of childbirth-related post-traumatic stress symptoms and full-blown PTSD altogether or will mislabel women experiencing post-traumatic distress as depressed. PTSD symptoms are fairly common–as New Mothers Speak Out found, 18% of women were experiencing symptoms and 9% met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD–and while some symptoms overlap with depression, the treatment differs.

Furthermore, on-site mental health services would be of little use to women suffering from childbirth-related emotional trauma because one of the prime protective responses is avoidance of environments and personnel that re-trigger traumatic memories.

I have as well a philosophical issue with making depression the preeminent postpartum mood disorder. Depression centers the problem in the woman, and therefore the cure is centered in her as well. PTSD, however, is centered in the system, and therefore its cure depends on systemic reforms. The incidence of emotional trauma can be minimized by reducing the overuse of cesarean surgery and other painful and invasive treatments, by implementing shared decision-making, and by providing physically and emotionally supportive care. So long as postpartum mood disorders are primarily seen as an issue of depression, little or no attention will be paid to the all too common glaring deficiencies of medical model management in this respect.

I have several issues with Henci’s comment.

She seemingly assumes that the Postpartum Mood Disorder community is unaware of the difference between Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Post-traumatic Traumatic Stress Disorder. I can assure her that we are indeed not unaware. Most providers and advocates I know work diligently to go beyond the EPDS to dig deeper for possible birth trauma. The EPDS, while yes, not designed to pick up specifically on PTSD, is a starting point for a conversation about emotional issues during the perinatal period. Henci’s issue with this illustrates exactly why we work to educate providers about the many aspects of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

The discussion with a mother who had a traumatic birth experience is wildly different than with one who did not. Not all mothers who experience a Postpartum Mood Disorder necessarily experience PPTSD. Nor are their issues rooted in an issue with the so-called system. May I remind you, Henci, that PMD’s have existed since the time of Hippocrates. It is not some new fangled “too-many interventions” kind of disorder.

Not all of us are not “victims” at the hand of the system as you would have us believe, Ms. Goer. I’ve held discussions with mothers who had home births or natural births in a birthing center and still gone on to experience a Postpartum Mood Disorder. While it’s certainly not as common and there is a seeming correlation to interventions during the birth experience, there simply isn’t enough evidence to claim interventions (particularly cesarean sections) are the definitive root of all Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders as Henci claims in her comment. (See article “Is there a link between C-sections and Postpartum Mood Disorders?)

We, the advocates for care and empowerment of women who do experience emotional trauma during and after birth, are working diligently to bring to light the additional issues on the Postpartum Spectrum such as Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Postpartum Anxiety, and others. We no longer focus solely on depression. If we do, it is only because Postpartum Depression has been used as a catch-all phrase for so very long.

In the past six years I have been blogging, the term has graduated from Postpartum Depression to Postpartum Mood Disorders to Perinatal Mood Disorders to Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders. In fact, I’m often at a loss as to which one to use. Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders covers it most thoroughly, I believe.

There are researchers who focus on nothing but birth trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders – such as Cheryl Tatano Beck. I had the pleasure of meeting Cheryl at the 2010 PSI Conference in Pittsburgh. That meeting was so much different than my meeting with Henci. Cheryl was warm, accepting, and thanked me for my work in bringing my experience to light and fighting for others who had been through the same thing.

I do not hide that my first birth was a rough one. I know there are other mothers out there who had even more horrific experiences. But I talk about it because negative birth experiences do happen. I talk about it so that other women will read it, and know that it’s okay to talk about their experiences. If I simply dismissed the experiences of all the women who reached out to me, well, I’d be doing a huge disservice to the community around me. To women in general. In essence, I’d be traumatizing them even further.

With wisdom and knowledge comes power. With that power, comes great responsibility. I hold that responsibility as if it were a fragile ball of glass. My goal is to keep it from shattering. My goal is to create a safe and soft space for it as it grows stronger.

If only Henci Goer saw the birthing world the same way.

Happy Third Birthday, Text4Baby!


partner button_300x250When Text4Baby first came on the scene, I was very excited. Here was a service that offered moms, for free, information about their infants and motherhood which would come straight to their phones. No signing into email or having to go to a website, just sign up for the service and BAM. Valuable information about your baby comes right to your phone. What’s really cool is that Text4Baby includes information about Postpartum Depression as well!

They turn three this month and I am thrilled to wish them a Happy Third Birthday! Text4Baby has grown quite a bit from a small service to a network of over 900 partners.

Here are a few wonderful facts about Text4Baby:

  • Text4baby is a free service that delivers three text messages a week to pregnant women and moms with children up to 1 year old. The text messages are timed to the mother’s due date or the age of her child.
  • A recent study by GW found that moms who used text4baby were “nearly three times more likely to believe that they were prepared to be new mothers”
  • A study by UC San Diego found that 63.1% of women reported that text4baby helped them remember an appointment or immunization that they or their child needed; 75.4% reported that text4baby messages informed them of medical warning signs they did not know; 71.3% reported talking to their doctor about a topic that they read on a text4baby message.
  • Text4baby is a collaboration of 900 partners. A comprehensive list can be found here.
  • 95% of women who use text4baby would refer the service to a friend

I haven’t used Text4Baby as when they began, my youngest was just a little over two years old so I was out of the target audience range.

As the founder of #PPDChat (which also turns 3 this year, incidentally – in May!), I am all for any technology which helps provide solid information and support to moms. Text4Baby does just that!

I hope you’ll join me in wishing an amazing service a Happy Birthday. May Text4Baby continue to grow and make a difference in the lives of mothers & babies!

I did not receive any compensation for this post. @Text4Baby approached me about writing a post and I happily accepted because I believe in what they do for new parents.

The Art of Social Media


Earlier today, something happened in my mentions on Twitter that made me go over to Facebook and rant for a few paragraphs. The more I think about it as the day passes, the more I feel it deserves more attention than just a small tirade on my personal Facebook account. It’s a lesson in how Social Media works and not just a rant against one particular person even though it started out as such.

Social Media is a bold new world. Okay, maybe not so much any longer, in fact, some of us are old hat at the methods and etiquette of the Social Media realm. But, for those of us who are old hat, it’s important to remember that there are people still discovering Social Media and adjusting to the lay of the land.

These new residents may not understand how to go about getting noticed and in the process of trying to get someone’s attention may very well break a well-known rule of etiquette. Is it our responsibility, as old-hat, to completely ignore them, or should we take the time to explain to them the proper way of getting things done?

Most of the time, I ignore them unless I have reason not to do so – such as they have made an effort to actually engage in conversation with me. You know, the first word in SOCIAL media. SOCIAL. So many forget this word but it is a crucial word to remember.

According to Dictionary.com, social is defined as follows:

so·cial

[soh-shuhl]

adjective

1.pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club.
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society: a social event.
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are social beings.
5.of or pertaining to human society, especially as a body divided into classes according to status: social rank.
Nowhere in there does it say that social requires you to yell at or insinuate yourself into the good graces of someone. Although sadly, that does seem to be the case for many these days. I am of the stock which believes upward and onward should happen organically when it is earned by genuine methods, not by skirting the “rules” set forth.

Books, lots of them, of the paper and electronic variety, have been written about the proper etiquette of Social Media. Some of them are right, some of them are just out to make a quick buck. For me, the bottom line to Social Media is to be social yet balance it just enough with the message I am here to provide which is that no one is alone in the battle against Postpartum Mood Disorders.

The very reason I am on the Internet REQUIRES me to be sociable. Why?

Because if I am at all fake, at all not real, and don’t exhibit compassion, honesty, integrity, and knowledge about my message, I have failed. No one will trust me, no one will seek out my help, and I will fail.

I don’t like to fail. (Who does?)

So. I tweet. A lot. About everything. About football. Bacon, hockey, beer, F1 racing, books, sometimes politics and faith, love, life, laughter, and everything in between. There’s a line, sure, because for everyone, there’s a line. Although for some… anyway, I digress. But I am REAL on Twitter and on FB because it’s part of my desired online identity. The more open I am, the more likely it is that I will reach that mom or dad or family member who is struggling and doesn’t know where to turn. My identity, my “truth” factor is far more important to me than any numbers or analytic algorithm.

I have worked very hard to get to where I am in the Twittersphere. Some of it has come from deep heartache and needing Twitter to get through. But the bulk of it has come through developing #ppdchat and being honest about Postpartum Depression.

So when someone who has not put in their time and is not social with me sends me a tweet asking me to share something they wrote, like they did this morning, I get annoyed.

Why? Because I will share if I want to, not because you asked me to do so. I’m also more likely to share if you’ve taken the time to be social and engaging with me as opposed to only tweeting me to ask me to share your stuff when you’re obviously not taking the time or energy to build up your own following. Say hi. Talk to me about more than your business or your blog. Be a real and transparent person. Own your words and your presence.

I didn’t just suddenly “get” over 4k followers on Twitter. No. I EARNED them. I didn’t pay for them. I EARNED them by being social and taking the time to get to know people. I don’t believe in Team Followback or any “get followers quick” scam. Sure, I don’t have daily conversations with every single one of my followers, but I am also not just plugging my blog, my chat, or a product. I am ME and I encourage others to boldly be themselves.

To take blatant advantage of my hard work for some free publicity for your work without being social and engaging first is downright disrespectful of what I’ve worked to do with my image and my brand. I am actually quite picky about what I share on Twitter because of the nature of my targeted audience – moms and families struggling with postpartum mood disorders. Even if your post applies to either, unless I know you and trust that you are only putting forth the best of the best, I don’t just retweet anything out there. To do so would be disingenuous to my followers and ruin the integrity of my identity. I am fiercely protective of my integrity.

I am also fiercely protective of #ppdchat. No one truly “owns” a hashtag, but when you start one, you hope for the best. I am thankful no spam has occurred with this hashtag and people have used it for the original intended purpose. The community springing forth from this hashtag is gorgeous, strong, and wonderful. I hope it continues to be such for a long time coming. I do not take kindly to folks abusing this hashtag.

As I pointed out earlier, Social Media is SOCIAL, it’s not someone standing in a mall handing out stacks of pamphlets to someone saying, “Here. I made this now go give it to someone else.” Social Media is hanging out at a coffee shop with friends, having meaningful conversations and then deciding to share certain aspects of those conversations and ideas born in those conversations.

Social Media is NOT one person with a megaphone. Because if it was, I’d want to smash the megaphone and not have a damn thing to do with Social Media.

Treat Social Media as you would a get together with a close friend and you’re already way ahead of the pack. Treat Social Media as if you’re a street vendor trying to get as many sales as possible and we’ll happily ignore you as we sip lattes and change the world one tweet (and follower) at a time.

(Although this is totally an afterthought and not at ALL a sales pitch, if you want great Social Media Advice? Go follow @ChrisBrogan. He knows what he’s talking about and his latest book, The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?, is absolutely wonderful. And this is a perfect example of how Social Media works, people. Chris didn’t ask me to share, doesn’t know I’m sharing, I just happen to respect his work, he’s engaging, and BAM. Organic share. Brilliant.)