This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and it’s time to talk about the mental wellbeing of parents. In the UK, postnatal depression effects more than 1 in 10 women within a year of giving birth.
However the findings of a report being launched this week by Mums Enterprise Ltd, a company dedicated to facilitating positive change and gender equality across the nation, confirms that as many as one in four women remain undiagnosed with postnatal depression.
The report has been collated drawing on this insight of over 1,000 mums across the UK and its contents explores what mothers desire, to feel fulfilled and happy in their working lives, post-children.
I caught up with Lindsey Fish, the Founder and CEO of Mums Enterprise to discuss the situation in more detail:
Why do you think postnatal depression has become such an epidemic amongst modern mums?
There is such a huge pressure on women to ‘appear’ like they are on top of life and although this is unfounded in so many cases; it’s human nature to want to come across like you are in control of a situation. Combine this with the pressures of being a good mum and to come across like you know what you are doing as a parent and all of a sudden it’s no surprise that it creates a huge pressure to bear.
When this is then on top of the needs and wants to be independent, earn a living, continue to be fulfilled in work or business and then potential extra strain of life at home, the chores, the cooking, caregiving to your children… I could carry on; it’s exhausting just to even write it out. These are just some of the pressures and challenges us women have to deal with on a daily basis and that is hard.
I believe that with the combination of all of this is hugely overwhelming, for many women there will be a natural point when depression and anxiety kick in and if we don’t get the help and support or can recognise the symptoms and reach out for help or have the courage to speak up then it’s a problem, a big problem.
We hear so much about the problems – but is it time to talk solutions beyond popping pills?
Yes and that is exactly why we have launched the Mums Enterprise Happiness Project. We feel the same way and is why we produced our first independent report ‘Career Woman to Working Mum‘ – it’s important we know the negative aspects, the things that affect us but we wanted to also know what motivates us, how do we cope, what are our fears but also ambitions and wishes.
By learning this we can then start to look at solutions and how we can try and really ‘have it all’. It may seem like an impossible dream but plenty of us are trying to attain it, and why not. It makes us feel happy and fulfilled to do so, unless that is the sneaky dark depression has seeped in and grasped hold. But we are positive, we are sure there is a way for us all to be happy and fulfilled and I believe our events help that.
The events are awesome but it’s more than that, it’s about seeing you are not alone, that thousands of others are facing the same challenges as you, that there really are options out there which you wouldn’t know just by googling (how are you suppose to know what to Google if you don’t know what you’re even looking for?). I am also a firm believer in the fact that our own future and destiny is in our own hands and by helping people find the support, know-how, expertise, tools and real true genuine work and business opportunities that we can help in making people across the nation happier.
What role do you think the prospect of returning to work and the issue of flexible working has to play in all this?
It’s important because even though many of us want to earn money, really that is a bonus as first of all we want to feel like all our years of work, experience and talent isn’t just going to waste. We are still the people we were before having kids and I think that get’s forgotten a lot of the time. Just because we become parents, that doesn’t mean we have lost our personality or skill-set, so yes confidence may be lower but we can get that back.
Flexible work is the future and it will happen, it may take years but it will get to the point in future where millennials, the young generation today all want to work on their own terms. This thankfully really helps us, as that’s what we have been craving for decades.
What solutions would you like to propose?
- Connecting people face to face – and making them realise that they are not alone
- Ensuring that mums have access to support and the knowledge of services available – from national helplines, initiatives, mentors, coaches – whatever a person needs really is out there. It’s a case of knowing it exists.
- Having a safe place other than social media to discuss and ask question – we are working on this
- Listening to positive stories and knowing how others have been there done it and succeeded
- Raising awareness of maternal mental health, PND and the real honest true challenges being faced by modern mothers today. It needs a voice, a loud one and thankfully I am starting to hear it and I hope we can play a part in helping them be heard.
Instead of just putting on a brave face, what should mums do?
Now I am not an advisor or trained as a mentor of any kind but this is just my opinion as a mum who has faced some challenges, hurdles and know friends who have also experienced post natal depression and the challenges of being a mum.
First admit to yourself that a problem could be there. If you feel strange, aren’t sure what’s going on or think something isn’t right then you have to first admit to yourself that something is up.
Then find the courage deep inside, be brave and speak up. No body else knows how we feel inside unless we tell somebody. A doctor, a partner a friend even a stranger. Then it’s out there, it’s vocal and you can talk about it.
And also meet other mums; make an effort to be social. It could be mums in business, mums having a brew or whatever it is you want to do. There are plenty of ways now to try and be more social so you don’t isolate yourself. Attend one of our events, seek local groups there is an app called MUSH, which helps mums meet up.
Everything we need to tackle how we feel, are experiencing and needing is out there. You just need to find it and again hopefully that is where we can help.
How do you think tackling gender inequality could help solve where we are at right now?
I think that society still falls into the old stereotypes of the mum staying at home with the kids and the dads going out to work and this doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t still be the case. We are only just starting to see forward thinking companies offering paternity leave and shared parental leave packages which are over and above the standard – I think this is a really great thing.
I think organisations need to do more to support working parents, both male and female so that they can retain employees who have an equal and health work, life and family balance. That’s the dream anyway!
If there was only one thing you could say about maternal mental health it would be?
There is no quick fix or magic pill; mental health is an on-going constant roller coaster in our journey through life. We need to be educated about it, understand ways in which we can cope or recognise when things are not ok, what we can do to help us or our loved ones cope, how do we care for our own mental health and that of others and who can we turn to when or if we do feel an issue is brewing or we need to seek help about helping another?
These are all questions that need answers and I am very pleased that really are people and initiatives out there who can help, like our charity partner PANDAS Foundation UK – change can happen and the help is there and it makes me happy that we can be a part of helping it all be found.
To find more about The Mums Enterprise Happiness Project and events see the Mums Enterprise website here.
Did you struggle with postnatal depression? Or perhaps you are reading this and wondering if you are the one in four who remain undiagnosed? Do leave a comment and share.