Time Takes Stigma To the Max With "Psychotic Nut Job" Mothers


Yesterday I happened upon a story from Time magazine’s Healthland on the results of research into why women kill their newborns. The first three sentences shocked me so much, I couldn't read further to learn about the study:

"Media reports of women killing their newborn babies always rocket to the top of websites' most-read lists. The prospect of moms killing newborns is so grotesque it's as if everyone is wondering the same thing: who are these mad mommies? Turns out they're not necessarily the psychotic nut jobs we think they are."

Mom CryingMad mommies? Psychotic nut jobs? Was I reading Time magazine or some cheap tabloid?  What is wrong with the media that it can't get it through its collective thick skull that stigmatizing and minimizing illnesses like postpartum psychosis hurts women?  Who can I poke in the eye with a pointed stick over this? (I'm sharpening it as we speak.)

While I was busy having a fit, cooler heads like Arwyn from Raising My Boychick raised even more issues with Bonnie Rochman's piece.  Arwyn pointed out in a comment on my blog that in one paragraph the author says none of the women in the study "... 'displayed obvious symptoms of mental illness', followed in the very next paragraph with 'Almost half the women were depressed.'"  Huh?

Honestly, once I calmed down enough to read the whole thing I wondered why Time would report on it at all.  The article was confusing, stating at the outset that the study may have found the reason why mothers murder their children when in fact the researchers simply profiled 27 women in France who committed neonaticide (in the first 24 hours postpartum).  Based on how the article was written, it seems Time seized on the study simply because it allowed them to use titillating phrases like "mad mommies" and "psychotic nut jobs" to rile up readers.

I grow so tired of such irresponsible journalism when it comes to mental illness.  I know, I know ... language police, political correctness, lighten up, I’m sure she didn’t mean it and all that. Except, what if you are a mom who thinks you may have the symptoms of postpartum psychosis but are too afraid to reach out for help because we’ll all think you're a “psychotic nut job”? What about the spouse who knows something is really wrong and can take action by getting his (or her) partner help, who instead decides not to tell anyone and tries to explain things away because he can’t possibly have married a “psychotic nut job”!  

I'm grateful I could contrast Time’s story with yesterday’s RT storm in my twitstream about Gwyneth Paltrow speaking openly of her experience with postpartum depression in Good Housekeeping. We need more open dialogue like Gwyneth's and a lot less of this crap from Time, thank you.


Katherine Stone at Postpartum Progress @postpartumprogr


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