It's all about mental health this week. Just as thousands open up about their personal struggles as part of the #BellLetsTalk awareness campaign, a U.S. task force recommends screening for depression for pregnant and new moms under Obamacare.
Under the screening, women would be asked to respond to statements like “I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things,” “I have been so unhappy that I have had difficulty sleeping,” and “The thought of harming myself has occurred to me.” Such statements could prove vital in identifying a woman who needs help.
Even though as many as one in five women is thought to experience depression at some point during pregnancy, not everyone cheered about the screening news.
Every time I think the stigma around mental health has finally lifted, someone like Marianne Williamson comes along and causes my jaw to crash on the floor.
Bestselling author and spiritual guru, Williamson took the screening recommendations with a heavy dose of skepticism, claiming the task force is "on big pharma's payroll."
She further claimed that pregnancy-related depression is normal. Women should just suck it up and take the "eat, pray, love" approach.
Williamson dug a deeper hole by further suggesting that many moms are misdiagnosed as depressed simply because they are "heartbroken" at having to return to work too soon. Wait, what?
Williamson claims she has herself experienced depression, so it seems strange that she would trivialize a clinical illness.
Her words sadly perpetuate the idea that you can just buck up and beat depression if you only try hard enough. That beating depression is a matter of sheer mental willpower and fortitude.
Her words undermine the very real struggle faced by many people, who cannot heal simply by settling on the right mantra.
Of course Williamson is right that we shouldn't rush to the pharmacy every time we have a bad day. And frankly, I know of no depressive who takes the decision to medicate lightly. It is typically - and literally - a do-or-die decision.
Williamson's ignorant statement spawned a campaign in their own right. Katherine Stone and followers of the blog Postpartum Progress challenged Williamson's thinking with their own conversation at #meditateonthis.
So sadly, while people like Williamson continue to trivialize and undermine the realities of mental illness, we need to keep talking about it. We can't afford to stop talking about it.
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