Mamas on Bedrest: Post Partum Depression in Black Women

March 12th, 2012

Post Partum Depression, or depression of any type for that matter, is a taboo subject in black communities. It’s not to say that we don’t get depressed, it’s just that we seldom admit it openly. I had thought that this “don’t ask don’t tell” stance was limited to the African American Community. But in a blog post by Salha Kaitesi, I learned that the stigma of depression has deep seated roots that reach all the back to the motherland.

Salha describes post partum depression treatment (or the lack there of) in many countries worldwide,

“Thousands of new mothers worldwide suffer from it in silence and are left alone to cope with it because it is not recognised or diagnosed.  Resources in many countries do not allow for the provision of appropriate care for PPD sufferers. PPD sometimes goes beyond the so called “normal” phase and it turns into an even more serious psychiatric illness known as  Puerperal Psychosis.”

She goes on to describe how post partum depression is managed (or not managed) in Africa and poses questions that I myself have often asked.

“If we are all aware that this illness can affect any woman anywhere in the world, why aren’t we talking about it? Is Africa in denial? Being silent on the matter of PPD cannot make it disappear! Or is it because no one wants or wishes for their wife or daughter to labelled “crazy”? A generalised name that society gives to all with any form of mental health problem. “Gusara” is the word loosely translated in my mother tongue. Some communities go as far as blaming it on witch craft and black magic. What is worse is that in many parts of the sub-Saharan continent, public health systems are ill-equipped to deal with post partum depression, which means there is an absence of psychiatrists or clinical psychologists trained to help women cope with the condition.”

Salha suffered with post partum depression and shares from her own personal experience what it was like and how she came to terms with her condition. She also shares valuable tips on what she has learned with other African Women who may be suffering with Post Partum Depression.

1.Don’t suffer in silence. Tell anyone who is willing to listen and please seek medical help. I might not have opened up to my family and friends but I sure talked to my health visitors and doctors. It helped a lot.

2.You might think it’s taking forever to get back to being your old self again but it’s not. Take things one day at a time.

This is such important information and let me see how the roots of ignoring depression run deep.  In my own upbringing, admitting depression is tantamount to admitting a lack of faith in God. Like many African Americans, I grew up with a strong southern black baptist background. We speak boldly about “how we got over”; enduring the ravages of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation. Yet we don’t openly discuss how emotionally and mentally traumatizing those experiences have been to our communities and to ourselves. It’s 2012 after all, things are so much better. Look, we’ve even got a black president!

But issues of race, class and gender still plague our communities and can take a serious emotional toll. While many of the issues plaguing the general community are not be the cause of post partum depression, how depression of any form is managed in the black community is still suboptimal.

I am so grateful to Salha for bringing the issue of Post Partum Depression in African women to light.  Her wise words are much needed for women of color to see that PPD is widespread and can affect women of all cultures and backgrounds.

If you are a woman, Black, White, Latina, Asian or otherwise and have any of the symptoms described by Salha as hallmarks of post partum depression, please get help. If you are unsure of where to get help, please contact us at info@mamasonbedrest.com and we’ll help you get connected with help and resources.  If anyone has any particular resources, please share them below. Mamas need this information.

It’s time to break the silence!

2 responses to “Mamas on Bedrest: Post Partum Depression in Black Women”

  1. Tiffany says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am a young Black mommy who had such crippling PPD that I ended up in the hospital twice for it. I believe I got that bad because of the lack of support I felt from my family. I come from a Caribbean background and mental illness is such a taboo topic among other things like sexual abuse which I have a history of. I was told to “snap out of it” by family that had hear about what was happening to me. To just “walk it off” by those who thought I was being dramatic. And other ignorant and insensitive things that only made me feel crazier. I even had my fiance’s family call me crazy. But all that no longer matters because I now have my life back 8 months later.I just wish less ppl would condemn these issues or sweep them under the rug. Confronting them would be the best way as well as education about these things. Thank you so much again.

  2. Darline says:

    Wow, Tiffany! I am so sorry that you had such a harrowing experience, yet very glad that you are well. I do my best to bring these issues to public awareness in order to educate people and to, hopefully, reduce the stigma associated with mental health in general and post partum depression in particular. I am so glad that you sought and got help. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

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