Unless, of course, you’re New York Times best-selling author Marianne Williamson. Then you can just apparently make a claim without any need for science or data, all the while expressing what to me seems like a prejudiced view against people with a mental illness. Namely, moms with postpartum depression.
How did those angry postpartum moms react on Twitter? With one voice.
Last week, Marianne Williamson, a best-selling author who lives in Los Angeles, CA, posted this on her public Facebook page:
CODE ALERT: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be “screened for depression” during and after pregnancy. Their answer, of course, is to “find the right medication.” Follow the money on this one. Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.
Williamson is reacting to new, updated government guidelines released last week. As we reported earlier last week, the update recommended that screenings be conducted during and after pregnancy, as many women are susceptible to postpartum depression. Symptoms of postpartum depression can crop up not only after birth, but also during a mom’s pregnancy.
Williamson seems to be suggesting that pharmaceutical companies have somehow paid off the researchers who were responsible for researching and publishing the new guidelines. She doesn’t offer a shred of evidence in either her Facebook status update, nor in the conversation that follows, to back up this assertion. It’s just like one of those “Big Pharma is evil” mantras some people like to chant to make them feel better about the world.
But in this case, Williamson also appears to be suggesting that postpartum depression itself may not be a real condition: “Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL.” Umm, okay. That may be true, but postpartum depression isn’t about normal hormonal changes. Wanting to die after the birth of your baby is not normal, nor is it a feeling experienced by most mothers.
The cherry on top of the cake are her simplistic alternative therapy suggestions: “Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.”
Postpartum Progress Reacts
Katherine Stone and the great folks over at Postpartum Progress sprung into action with the hashtag #meditateonthis and reached over 2 million people within 24 hours with “stigma-fighting, truth-telling tweets about postpartum depression, medication, and treatment.” That page — which you should really check out! — was full of shared stories of hope and progress against postpartum depression by real moms. Who really had postpartum depression.
According to their stats:
796 people on twitter sent out 6,526 tweets about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. The messages were delivered to 27,764,462 timelines with a total reach of 2,005,250 people.
That is the power of social media when it is mobilized to fight the kinds of prejudice and discrimination that is yet all-too-prevalent — even among best-selling New York Times authors.
Postpartum Depression is Real, Needs Real Treatment
According to not-a-clinician, not-a-doctor Williamson, you should treat your clinical depression with love, vitamin supplements and prayer. But perhaps nobody should be surprised an author like Williamson is saying these things. After all, her books include such titles as “Illuminata: A Return to Prayer,” “A Year of Miracles,” “Age of Miracles” and “The Law of Divine Compensation.” Clearly this is a person who believes in miracles and divinity.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Indeed, prayer and a rich spiritual life do indeed help many people, includes those with mental illness.
But spirituality is not a substitute for actual medical care and treatment. (Unless, maybe, you’re a Christian Scientist.)1 Nobody should be suggesting to others their condition isn’t real — or worse, was made-up as a part of a larger conspiracy. Nobody should be suggesting to others that their pain, suffering and lived experiences don’t count. Or could’ve been solved by simply more prayer or “love.”
The suggestion that government depression screening guidelines published in the world’s most preeminent medical journal (JAMA) are part of a larger conspiracy by Big Pharma is truly an insult to the tens of millions of people who suffer from clinical depression. And an even bigger insult to the millions of moms who suffer from postpartum depression.
Read the full article: #meditateonthis Success Shows Moms with PPD Will Fight the Good Fight
Since this article was written, Marianne Williamson has posted an undated defense and explanation of her behavior and viewpoint.
In it, she writes, “We are living at a time when pathologizing what might be regarded as within the spectrum of normal human emotions is a new norm” and falls on that time-worn complaint that mental illness doesn’t have a laboratory blood test to help screen for its presence. Williamson fails to note that most medical diseases also don’t have a laboratory blood test that can tell you definitively whether you have something or not.
She follows, “My problem is with what I see as an epidemic of anti-depressant use among those whose depression is not necessarily beyond the spectrum of normal human suffering.” I wasn’t aware that it was an author’s job to determine what degree that other people’s suffering is “normal” or “painful.” Really, that’s a judgment call best left to individuals and their doctors — not authors.
I don’t want anyone telling people their pain isn’t real, or is just a part of “normal human suffering.” That is disrespectful, degrading and paternalistic of people’s lived experiences.
- Yes, I know that Christian Scientists don’t actually ban all medical treatment, they just discourage it for all but the most extreme needs. [↩]