How can you help someone suffering?

Worried about someone you think might have Antenatal/Postnatal depression, Postpartum Psychosis or another form depressive illness

If you feel that someone you know might have a form of Depression but they might not realise or want to acknowledge that they’re not behaving as they usually would. Depression can develop slowly and it is often a family member or spouse who sees the signs first.

Ideally the first step would be to encourage them to seek medical advice from either your family medicine doctor or a Mental Health professional.

Postnatal Depression is a depressive disorder which affects women and some men after the birth of their baby. According to recent estimates PND occurs in 1 in 5 women while 1 in 20 men will have a depressive episode in the first year of their child’s life. PND can begin as soon as your baby is born, though is not often diagnosed until later on. The symptoms of PND are very similar to the symptoms one may experience in depression and include low mood, a sense of worthlessness, exhaustion and a feeling of being unable to cope.

Often mothers experiencing PND will feel guilty about the way they feel, it may affect their ability to bond with the child and lead to attachment problems. With this guilt a sense of self-loathing and the belief that their child/family would be better off without them can occur. Depending on how bad the PND is some mothers experience significant difficulty caring for their new born child and any other children. Individuals with PND can experience overwhelming difficulty with simple household chores and feel unable to cope and inadequate as a mother.

What are the signs that someone may be depressed and not simply feeling down or suffering Baby Blues?

Feeling low and Baby blues are very common, so much so it is considered normal, it impacts about 85% of women after the birth of their baby/babies, somewhere between the 3rd to 10th day and only lasts for a few days.  Whereas PND doesn’t just pass after a couple of days or a good night’s sleep.

Here are some of the symptoms you might want to look out for. It is highly unlikely you will have all of these symptoms however, if you have more than one or two go and speak to your doctor, give us a call, ask for some more information and support and do it as soon as you can.

How you may feel

  • Sad and low
  • Tearful for no apparent reason
  • Worthless
  • Hopeless about the future
  • Exhausted
  • Unable to cope
  • Irritable and angry
  • Guilty
  • Hostile or indifferent to your partner or baby
  • Anxious and fearful

You may find that you

  • Lose concentration
  • Have little to no libido
  • Find it hard to sleep – even when you have the opportunity
  • Suffer from insomnia, can’t sleep even when you have the opportunity
  • Have a lack of appetite
  • Have thoughts about death or that your family would be better off without you.

So what can you do to help?

  • Try and encourage the person to talk about how they are feeling, although you may feel powerless it really doesn’t matter if it’s you they talk to or a friend, health professional etc. but talking will help
  • Let them know you are there for them and ask them how you can help
  • Try and get them to take exercise (walking)
  • Making sure they are getting a balanced diet
  • Get them information about support out there, such as this support group and information on Antenatal/Postnatal Depression or PPP
  • If you are worried about someone and would like to talk to someone about what to do next or what help is available please get in touch with us or your family medicine doctor.