The Importance of Chrissy Teigen's Discussion on Postpartum Depression

Chrissy Teigen is the woman that we all want to be. She is incredibly successful as a model, the author of a cookbook, and host of Lip-Sync Battle. But, what she may be even more known for is her Twitter page. She is hilariously honest, saying all the things we are often afraid to say. Oh, and did I mention that she is also married to John Legend?

While she often shares so much of herself with the world, there was one thing that she kept hidden. But now she has finally utilized her platform to talk about coping with a personal challenge: postpartum depression. As could only be expected, she tackled this unbelievably personal topic of her mental health with poise, a little bit of humor, and a lot of heart.

On March 6th, she wrote an essay for Glamour, opening up regarding the vulnerable topic. It’s an important discussion. Postpartum depression occurs in one in nine women and includes a multitude of symptoms, from loss of appetite to panic attacks to feeling numb.

In April of 2016, Chrissy and John’s first daughter, Luna, was born. After undergoing IVF treatment, her dream to be a mother was finally fulfilled. But often, as life seems to work, things do not happen exactly as you expect. She was physically in pain, but even more so emotionally. She explains in great detail how mere tasks like leaving her house or going up to her room were momentous, how she lost her appetite and couldn’t eat for days, and how she was short with the people she loved and didn’t know why.

By opening a discussion of her own personal experiences, Teigen is opening a discussion of mental illness as a whole. How many women have had these symptoms but been too afraid to share them? How many women didn’t want to tell people about postpartum depression because they didn’t want people to think they resented their children? How many of your loved ones have a mental illness, but are too afraid to talk about it? The topic has always been hidden behind doors, a taboo. But when people are told to hide their mental illness, the message they receive is that their mental illness is not valid. Teigen even addresses this stigma that revolves around mental illness. She says, “the word depression scares a lot of people. I often just call it 'postpartum.' Maybe I should say it, though. Maybe it will lessen the stigma a bit.” She acknowledges how hard it is to label herself with the word “depressed” but also how important it is that she does.

The more people openly discuss how mental illness affects their lives, the more people will feel that they too can talk about it. By using their voices, they’re helping someone find their own. Someone can say, “I can’t go to basketball practice tonight because I broke my ankle” yet somehow people cannot say “I had a severe panic attack so I don’t think I can hang out tonight.” But we need to start treating mental illness as what it is: an illness. People do not choose to be depressed, or anxious, or bipolar. They don’t get to hit a switch that makes them feel better. Once it can be talked about freely, more people are going to seek out help and get the care that they need.

The shame society places on those with mental illness becomes even more detrimental to their health. People with depression aren’t “overdramatic.” People with anxiety aren’t “uptight.” People with eating disorders aren’t “looking for attention.” Having a mental illness does not make you “crazy.” It’s time to end these stigmas, once and for all. Teigen herself says that she never knew anyone else who had postpartum depression, but the facts say otherwise. She just didn’t know anyone else who spoke up about their postpartum depression. When she first was diagnosed she immediately associated it “with Susan Smith [a woman now serving life in prison for killing her two sons; her lawyer argued that she suffered from a long history of depression], with people who didn’t like their babies or felt like they had to harm their children.” Since she wasn’t educated on the topic, she didn’t know any better. She didn’t know that her feelings were valid. She didn’t know that many women go through the same thing as her. She just didn’t know.

That is where her power lies - to raise awareness. By opening up about her postpartum depression she is humanizing a very human illness - an illness that can happen to anyone. She loves her child and she has postpartum depression. The two are not mutually exclusive.

It’s also extremely important to note that she acknowledges her privilege. She’s grateful to have the family, the doctors, and the overall support to seek help for herself. In a time of great political debate regarding healthcare, it’s important that we understand mental illness now more than ever. Not everyone has the same type of access that Teigen does, and it’s crucial that we fight for this type of access. Everyone deserves to get the help they need for mental illness.

So a resounding thank you to Chrissy Teigen for advocating for the visibility of mental illness, for sharing her own personal struggle, and for reminding us just how human we truly are. So please remember, your mental illness is valid. You can find your voice and use it, if you so choose. You are not alone in this.

If you or someone you know at UConn is struggling with mental illness, know that you can seek help here.

 

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