I read the August 2009 Ensign on Sunday, and came across an excellent article about Postpartum Depression. I'm glad the subject is finally out in the open and being addressed.
I still remember the excruciating emotional pain and bad, bad memories associated with postpartum depression twenty-nine years after I suffered from it. At the time I had no idea what was wrong with me. All I knew was that I had blinding headaches (caused, as it turned out, by an undiagnosed case of whiplash from a car accident the week before my daughter was born), crying spells, and little energy to take care of my 3 young children, a small married-student apartment and a demanding student-husband. I had been a happy-go-lucky person before, and it was confusing to me as to why the world suddenly seemed dark and hopeless. It would have been good to know what was happening, and may have helped my then-husband be more compassionate. I didn't have a name for what I had gone through until ten years later when I was expecting Katie, and the Dr. gave me a pamphlet on the subject. The lights went on, and I was finally able to start letting go of that part of the past.
There were a few things that I did to help myself during those dark days, including dragging myself and 3 babies to church every Sunday (the friendships and messages there were very comforting and helped me get through the week), listening to uplifting music and sermons, relying on prayer, thanks to the encouragement of my home teachers who came by at a critical moment to give me some desperately needed emotional support and a prayer, and reading scriptures and the Ensign.
A few years later I found myself working at the Ensign, and spent 25 years there doing typesetting and production work. It was a real joy and a great blessing to be associated with the magazine and the people who produce it. Over the years they have printed some fine articles about social and emotional health issues from a religious, spiritual viewpoint. I thought I'd include links to some of them, hoping that they might be of help:
* "Bipolar Disorder: My Lessons in Love, Hope, and Peace" January 2009.
* "Myths about Mental Illness," October 2005.
* "When Your Child is Depressed," August 2004.
* "Easing the Burdens of Mental Illness," October 2001.
* "Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not," October 1987.
Last year the LDS Church launched a site dedicated to helping family members, leaders and teachers reach out to those who have several different types of health challenges, including mental and emotional challenges. The site is still in the early stages, with more upgrades being planned, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The section about mental illness has basic, general information on the subject, along with some tips on how to help those who struggle, and additional links to other websites and articles. I especially appreciate the teaching ideas because David struggles with attending church on Sunday. The site is still new, but I expect that as the word about it spreads, it will be a help and comfort to those who come across it.
When I was working on my final paper, I was happy to find a newspaper story about a group of social work students at BYU who saw a need for clergy members to find answers when dealing with the mental health concerns of their congregations. They founded Clergy Bridge in an effort to help. All of these efforts and many others like them are important steps to reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues.
David has been struggling with his moods again, but he works hard to keep them under control. It helped that Sunday our home teacher and friend came by and spent an hour patiently listening to David talk about some of his concerns. We went on a walk afterward, and when he saw a friend's swamp cooler still covered, he asked them if they needed help with it. He says he decided that instead of complaining about what happened with our roofing episode, he was going to make the effort to reach out to others more. I am thrilled with the change of attitude.