January 31 has come to be known as Bell Let’s Talk Day, and anyone who advocates for those struggling with mental illness can be found on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. Every single time someone used the hashtag on January 31, beginning in 2011, Bell donated $0.05 to mental health initiatives. Over the past 8 years, the number of interactions has more than doubled to a whopping 138,000,000.
Not once in those 8 years has the Bell Let’s Talk initiative mentioned maternal mental health.
Many of you reading the blog already understand the importance of making space for maternal mental health, but for anyone who isn’t convinced, let’s break it down. Postpartum depression and anxiety are, in many ways, different that other mood disorders. While having a mood disorder gives new moms a predisposition toward developing PMAD, the overall rate of moms who experience PMAD is higher than that of the general population. It’s not like other forms of depression or anxiety, and while many moms already know it, the study mentioned in this HuffPost article confirms it: the PPD that a new mom experiences manifests in the brain differently than a major depressive episode or generalized anxiety disorder.
There’s already so much stigma attached to women experiencing a postpartum mood disorder, thanks to the societal expectations that new moms should be happy and content with their new baby, and that motherhood comes naturally. Anyone who’s a mom can attest to how wrong those assumptions are, how much pressure those expectations create. Add to that the fact that a major player in mental health advocacy, Bell Let’s Talk Day, isn’t mentioning anything about postpartum mood disorders, and the stigma only increases.
This year, Claire Ziobin created a new hashtag in the hopes of getting Bell’s attention: #BellLetsTalkMaternalMentalHealth. Claire enlisted the help of fellow advocates, Sarah Beckel, Patricia Tomasi, Shannon Henning, and Lisa Tremayne, along with other supporters, and got some serious traction. Personal stories about postpartum depression and anxiety were being shared on social media with the hashtag, and those posts were being shared by others.
It was amazing to see the hashtag grow across all social media platforms throughout the day. Right now, #BellLetsTalkMaternalMentalHealth has 16.5 million impressions on Twitter alone!
It also, finally, has the attention of Bell. The chair of Bell Let’s Talk Day reached out to Claire the next day to start a conversation about broadening and deepening the conversation about mental health.
Hopefully, this is the start of a beautiful relationship.