When a mother or father is suffering from post-natal depression, they can often feel alone, hopeless and/or guilty during their battle with this common mental health illness. Post-natal depression or ‘PND’, as it is commonly called, is depression (intense low mood or sadness) that comes about in the twelve months after the birth of a child.
Introducing a new baby into the home is challenging for all parents in some way or another, and requires a number of physical, mental and emotional adjustments. However, when intense feelings of sadness hang about for more than a few weeks (unlike the regular ‘baby blues’, which subside relatively quickly), it may be that your partner or a loved one is in fact suffering from post-natal depression. (For more information on the signs of post-natal depression, see our article ‘What Are The Signs Of Post-Natal Depression?’).
When someone we care about is suffering from PND, it can be a rough and lonely time for them, and it is vital that the people they love rally around and support them as best they can. Let’s take a look at some simple things you can do in order to support someone you love that is battling post-natal depression.
Things You Can Do To Support Someone Suffering From Post-Natal Depression
Research Post-Natal Depression
Before reaching out to your partner or loved one, a great place to start on your support journey is by researching post-natal depression. Having an understanding of PND and how it affects a person can enable you to understand why they feel the way they do, to better sympathise with your loved one, and how to gently and effectively approach them when the time is right.
Be There For Them
Early in their experience with PND, a sufferer may still be making sense internally of how they are feeling and may not yet feel ready to talk about their illness. And on particularly tough days, a person suffering from PND may not have the mental or emotional energy to discuss their battles.
Wherever they are in their journey and no matter what sort of day they are having, one of the most important things you can do to support your loved one with PND is to be there for them. Tell them in person, on the phone, via text, whatever it takes, that you are there for them, to listen when they are ready and to lend a hand with whatever they need. Sometimes, the simple act of sitting with them in silence (e.g. having a cup of tea or watching TV together) can make a real difference in terms of feeling loved and supported, simply knowing you are there for them.
Listen Gently, Carefully And Without Judgement
A feeling of isolation is very common in mothers and fathers suffering from post-natal depression, and having someone to listen when they are ready to talk is very important and forms a big part of the recovery journey from PND. When your loved one is ready to open up about their feelings and/or fears, listen gently, carefully and without judgement and do your best to acknowledge how they are feeling.
Guilt, shame, embarrassment – they are all common feelings experienced by mums and dads suffering from post-natal depression. They may question their ability to parent and feel they are not doing an adequate job. It is really important to consistently reassure your partner or loved one that they are doing a fantastic job and the best they can, and that their baby is as healthy and happy as possible. Remind your loved one it is not uncommon to require lots of time to both adjust to the many demands of parenting and to deepen their bond with their baby when suffering from PND. Tell them you are all in it together and emphasise that you are there to listen to and support them all the way through their journey, and it one day it will eventually pass.
If someone you love is suffering from post-natal depression and feels like they are the only one fighting their way through it, it may be worth reminding them that PND is a very common mental health illness, suffered by many mothers as well as fathers, all over the world. In fact, PND affects as many as 1 in 7* women following childbirth in Australia and is most definitely nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. It’s a great idea to remind your loved one of all their wonderful qualities as an individual too. Tell them how much joy their presence in your life brings you – this can go a long way in lifting their spirits.
Encourage Them To Get Some Sleep
Sleep deprivation is extremely common for mothers and fathers of newborns/babies and can be very challenging. However, sleep deprivation experienced by parents suffering from post-natal depression can be especially gruelling, as feelings of depression can add to the inability to get adequate rest, which can then heighten symptoms of PND.
Looking after the baby and/or other children can be a really helpful way to allow your loved one to get some much-needed sleep. Catching up on even a little rest can greatly increase a person’s ability to cope with day-to-day demands and challenges and may help someone suffering from PND to manage a little more easily.
Offer Practical Assistance
Preparing meals, keeping on top of laundry and maintaining a clean and tidy house feels near impossible for a parent raising a newborn/baby, and can be particularly overwhelming for someone suffering from post-natal depression. If appropriate, ask your loved one what they would like some help with, be it cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, running errands, etc. If they find it hard to make a suggestion or appear too overwhelmed, do your best to figure out what may help them most and go for it.
If your partner is suffering from PND, do as best you can to manage the majority of the household duties (i.e. cooking, laundry and cleaning), given your personal responsibilities. This can take a large amount of pressure off your partner. If due to the demands of work, parenting and other activities the housework is very challenging for you to manage, reach out to friends and family, many of which are likely to be more than happy to lend a hand by means of cooking a meal or doing a load of washing, etc. Or, if you can afford to, you may wish to order healthy pre-prepared meals, outsource your laundry requirements or hire a housekeeper to reduce the workload for you and your partner.
If your friend or other family member is battling post-natal depression, you may like to:
-Consider taking some time to prepare a healthy home-cooked meal or snack: and drop it in at a time that is appropriate. You may like to consider leaving the food you have prepared on your loved one’s doorstep in an esky if they are not up to seeing you in person, or arrange to have their partner or other close family member pick it up. Do not underestimate the relief of being able to pop a meal in the microwave and enjoy it, without having to think about what to cook or having to clean up a large number of dishes!
-Do some grocery shopping and/or run some errands: Often for sufferers of PND, getting out of the house, particularly with baby(/additional children) can be overwhelming and feel impossible. Completing a grocery shop or bringing by some essentials can be particularly helpful for someone suffering from post-natal depression. Similarly, running some errands (e.g. popping by the post office or the shops) can be of great assistance.
-Assist with the laundry: Bring round a basket of your own and gather up some washing/folding/ironing that needs to be completed. A fresh set of clothes, sheets or towels can really help mums and dads battling PND to feel a little refreshed.
-Do some cleaning: Vacuuming the floors, scrubbing the bathrooms and dusting surfaces may seem beyond reach when ill with post-natal depression. Take a quick look around to see what needs doing and gently get started, where appropriate.
-Babysit his/her child/children: That way, your friend or family member can take a break from looking after the baby/children and catch up on something they wish or need to do. Perhaps it is some much-needed sleep, a hot shower or some necessary errands, or some well-deserved time just to themselves.
Encourage And Support Them To Seek Treatment
Support from friends and family forms a vital part of the recovery process from post-natal depression. However, it is very important that a person suffering from PND seeks professional help, not only for themselves, but for their close family and friends around them.
For a person battling PND, researching and considering professional treatment options can seem overwhelming and frightening. You can support your loved one by looking into and talking to them about their options and supporting their decision.
You may also be able to assist by:
-sitting down and planning together what they’d like to say at/get out of their appointments
-driving them to and/or from their appointments
-accompanying them at their appointments, and/or
-looking after their baby/children while they attend.
Going with your partner or loved one to their appointments is not only beneficial for them, but is helpful for you with regards to understanding PND, what your loved one is experiencing and their path for recovery.
Encourage Your Loved One To Take Some Time For Self-Care
Particularly in the first year, caring for a child can often mean there is little time left for one self. It is not unusual for new parents to be so caught up in caring for their baby that they forget about themselves.
When battling post-natal depression, it can be difficult for a mother or father to take time to care for themselves. If you are able, gently ask them what feel-good activity they might wish to do for themselves. Whether it’s self-pampering or enjoying a book at home, or getting a haircut or facial out and about, encourage them to take some time to enjoy something for them. Where possible, either babysit for them or arrange for someone to care for their baby/children so they can enjoy some well-deserved time out doing something that brings joy. A break away from parenting and in some cases, home as well, can be very beneficial for parents suffering from PND and allow them to feel somewhat refreshed.
It is worth noting that parents suffering from post-natal depression often feel guilty about taking time for and spending cash on themselves, due to feelings of inadequacy as a parent. Where you can, buy them a gift voucher or the like to relieve some of their angst.
Treat Them With Something
An easy and thoughtful way to show your support for someone suffering from post-natal depression is to treat them with something special that will make them smile. You may like to consider buying them flowers, yummy snacks, nice toiletries, a heart-warming book or a gift voucher. Gifts that encourage healing and/or self-care time are a good choice.
Take Your Loved One Out And About
Getting outside in the fresh air or simply out of the house can be hugely beneficial for parents battling with post-natal depression. You may need to start small, such as a short and gentle local stroll together (where safe/appropriate), or head to a nice café close to home. Remember to be patient and support your loved one if they need to back out at short notice due to how they are feeling.
Look Out For Their Partner
If it is a friend or close family member you are supporting that is struggling with PND, it is a nice idea to check in regularly with their partner as to how they are feeling and coping. It is important to remember that post-natal depression can also affect the family members of the person suffering.
Overcoming post-natal depression is often a long journey and as a result, it is very important to remain patient. Ensure your partner or someone you love fighting PND feels supported all the way through, and understand that if they are distant at times, not to take it to heart – it is all part of their illness.
As you can see, there are a variety of things you can implement in order to support someone close to you that is suffering from post-natal depression. Support from friends and family alone however is not enough, and it is important to encourage your loved one to seek professional treatment. Contact Brain Wellness Spa today for professional support for post-natal depression.