Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Do you have a mental health problem?

This week at Uni we've been talking about post natal depression and mental health issues. It was unfortunate timing that the news about Felicia Boots hit the headlines. Or was it? I do think that post natal depression is not talked about enough. Depression is a stigma and not discussed as much as it should be. Allegedly Felicia did not take the medication that she needed because she was so frightened that the medication would affect her babies through her breast milk. This is not an uncommon event, although fortunately most women do not kill their children. Do you know which drugs are safe in pregnancy or to breastfeed with? No? Neither do I. However I do know where I can access the information to find out and I also know that in some situations, whilst one drug may not be suitable, there may be an alternative. Simply stopping a drug is not the best course of action. 

Felicia's case is truly tragic but there are so many others that need more support. Mental Health issues affect 1 in 4 people every that could easily be you right? I know it was me. I've told you about when my brother died and naturally bereavement can be a large precursor to mental health problems. Personally I also was dealing with a variety of other difficulties in my personal mentioned before, my sister's family life wasn't easy, but at the same time my husband had lost his job, we were struggling financially and at the time, it just felt like everything was going wrong. Usually an optimistic person, I became consumed with the thought that some people were just unlucky and no matter how hard they tried, their lives would always be miserable, and who was to say that wasn't me. I had thoughts of leaving my family....not of suicide, just of driving away and living somewhere far away from them. I decided I was bad luck and I would bring nothing good to them. Luckily I have a wonderfully supportive family and friends, and I sought help from the GP. I was immediately referred for counselling and given regular appointments with my doctor. Initially my GP was reluctant to prescribe anti-depressants because I was breastfeeding and he was unsure if they were safe. Encouraged my friends, I returned to my GP armed with information from the Breastfeeding Network and I was given the medication that I needed. Fortunately for me, the medication and counselling I had, helped me. I recovered without any major side effects. I was lucky. I am no longer in counselling, and I am no longer on medication. However it's also not something I shout about.

If doctors are afraid to prescribe the medication that people need then it's really no surprise that women are afraid to take it, in pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding. But where does this leave the women that so desperately need help. What about those women who have serious mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, psychosis etc... The medication that they take can be essential to them being able to live a "normal" life. There are only 13 mother and baby units in the UK. This means that any mother requiring inpatient care for a mental health issue is more likely to be separated from her baby due to the lack of this vital resource. 

The NHS offers this page as advice for anyone worried about postnatal depression.

I don't have the answers to the problem but I hope that I do remember to talk to take that time and listen and ensure that they are getting the support they so desperately need. I will do my absolute best to ensure that women aren't stopping medication unnecessarily. I will encourage women to speak up if they are feeling down and I will encourage family members to watch out for the signs of postnatal depression. But this is something you can look out for too....with friends, family members, colleagues, neighbours. Not necessarily postnatal depression but any form of mental health issue. Let's break down this stigma and offer people the help they really need. 

1 comment:

  1. Even though I am just a baby student midwife I have mixed feelings on this story. Firstly I think that this news story could give out the wrong impression of the illness, associating an illness with a murder never helps, how many people are proud schizophrenics?

    It would be much more responsible and a much more real prospect to label the condition the effected Ms Boots as postnatal psychosis, a much rarer condition, however effects 1 in 1000. it is often diagnosed as depression but the drugs would make little difference even if she had taken them. Interestingly the condition has a 5% suicide rate and a 4% infant death.