It can be upsetting (and frustrating) to see someone you love suffering from a mental health condition. Here are some ways that you can support them though PND.
We’ve written this for partners. From our own experiences of both having PND and supporting loved ones through a mental health condition. All the ways to provide support apply just as well if you’re a family member or friend.
It’s hard to see someone you love struggle
First of all let’s acknowledge that it’s really tough to see someone you love going through a hard time. It’s harder still if it’s your partner or spouse suffering with postnatal depression. You both were looking forward to welcoming your new baby into the world and had a vision of what it would be like. If your partner struggles it flips your vision of new parenthood on it’s head. And can be really hard to deal with. Add in your own overwhelm, learning to deal with all the challenges of caring for your newborn as well as a whole new level of sleep deprivation – then it’s harder still. So what can you do to support someone through PND?
1. Encourage them to seek help
It can be difficult for anyone to admit that they need help. Gently encourage your partner to seek the help and support they need. Make it as easy as you can. By giving them clear ways to reach out and ask for help. That might mean going with them to speak to their G.P or health visitor. Or showing them ways to get help in other ways, for example, by giving them details of the Pandas helpline. There are plenty of charities and options for them to reach out and start to talk.
2. Find out all you can about PND
It’s important when supporting someone through PND to understand it. Do your research. Find out all you can about what it feels like; the signs and symptoms. Get a better understanding of what the one you love is going thorough. Check out our PND page as a first port of call.
It’s important to remember that this is not their fault and they can’t just snap out of it.
3. Assure them that they are a good mum
One of the biggest things anyone going through PND may feel is a misplaced sense of failure. That they are not a good enough mum. Assure them that they are. Outline all the ways they are. And keep reassuring them that they are a good mum despite their struggles.
4. Reassure them that you’re there (no matter what)
One of the most important things you can do to support your partner through PND is to let them know that you are there for them. No matter what. To let them know you’re here. You love them. And you’re not going anywhere. Be there consistently. To listen. And hold them. To understand. Their world might feel like it’s falling apart. Be their safe space and their rock.
5. Mobilise an army of help
Be hands-on when it comes to caring for your baby. Do all you can to take off the load when it comes to doing all the things that need to be done to look after and care for your little one. You might be juggling work commitments and other things, so also seek out others who can all pitch in and help too. That might mean reaching out to your family and friends to mobilise an army of help. They can help with so many things, little or large tasks. But they all ease the pressure. Whether it’s delivering meals or looking after your baby so your partner can get some space. Any help or support you can arrange can make a big difference.
Check though that any help you organise will not overwhelm your partner. She might not feel up to having people in the house to look after your baby, but might be able to deal with her mum/sister/friend taking your baby out for a walk so that she can rest.
6. Ask what you can do to help
If you’re suffering with PND it can be hard to make decisions. Ask what you can do to help. Drill it down into two or three suggestions. Perhaps that could be, ‘Could I make a meal for you?’, ‘Could I look after the baby while you get some sleep?’, ‘Do you need a hug?’.
7. Encourage her to escape the four walls
When you have depression you often want to hide away from the world. We know, here at Happity, that loneliness and lack of connection can make PND worse. Encourage your partner to get out and about into the big wide world. Go with them if they are nervous. Start small. That might mean walking to the end of the street at first. You can build up to urging them to join a class. We have some amazingly supportive classes on Happity, designed specifically for mums suffering with PND. But any class can provide company and support.
8. Recovery from PND is a marathon, not a sprint
It’s often hard to know that you cannot easily and quickly fix things if someone you love has PND. The truth is there’s no quick fix. So have patience and be aware that it will take time. It does help to remind your partner that they will get better. And that you will stay by their side, however long it takes.
9. Supporting someone through PND: Look after yourself too
Supporting someone through PND (or any mental health condition) is hard. It can really be draining on your own resources. Look after yourself too. That might mean taking time to get a break. Talk to friends, find ways to go to a group or spend time doing something that lets you have a breather. You might need to make sure the one you’re supporting has someone else there to step into your breach.
Taking time out for yourself will mean you are better able to provide support. So make sure you get it.
Disclaimer: We have researched and included robust sources to provide information in this article. However, we are not health or medical professionals and you should always seek medical or professional advice if you are worried about you, your partner’s or your baby’s health.