Everybody talks about the joys of motherhood, but for a long time, nobody talked about the tears, the sadness, stress and anxiety. Luckily, that’s changing because new numbers reveal mental health issues are a very common part of parenthood.
According to a new survey by the BBC, more than a third of mothers experience mental health issues. The results come from an online survey of British parents, but the topic is something that definitely impacts moms all over the world.
A 2014 survey of Australian moms came up with the same figure, noting that one in three first time mothers is in poor mental health, and a survey done stateside in 2013 found about 22% of new moms were depressed.
The BBC survey may show higher numbers because it looked at mental health issues in general, not specifically postpartum depression (which is just one way a mom’s mental health can be impacted), or it could signal that mothers have become more willing to discuss all kinds of mental health issues in recent years. Thanks to public health campaigns and celebrities like Hayden Panettiere and Alanis Morrisette sharing their stories publicly, the stigma is being removed.
There is still some work to do, though.
The BBC survey found that a lot of parenting stress stems from the fact that moms are being criticized by a lot of people. That can hurt, especially when you’re still getting the hang of parenting and not feeling super secure to begin with.
The BBC reports 26% of mother say their own parents are the most critical of their parenting, and 24% feel their partner is.
When it comes to public parenting shaming, moms get it worse than fathers. While just 5% of dads reported being criticized by strangers in public, 14% of mothers have been mom shamed by random people (raises hand, shout out to the cashier who refused to check my grocery order because my crying baby was “too distracting”).
Work issues are also a factor when it comes to stress and anxiety linked to parenthood. Thirty percent of moms surveyed by the BBC felt they’d been discriminated against at work since becoming a mom, and less than half as many fathers said the same.
While dads do have it easier at work (and when out in public), they’re certainly not immune to mental health issues associated with parenthood. Seventeen percent of dads surveyed reported experiencing mental health problems, and we certainly know that new fathers can experience parental depression, too.
The conversation around parental mental health issues is an important one because, according to the BBC, about two-thirds of the moms suffering aren’t asking for help, and the numbers for dads are even lower.
A recent study of depressed fathers found that about 83% of those who would be classified as moderately to severely depressed hadn’t actually told anyone, and researchers estimated the corresponding figure for new moms is anywhere between 20 and 50%.
According to the BBC, 60% of moms report turning to their friends for support, 56% turn to their partner and 18% say they go online.
If you’re feeling down, speak up.
The bottom line is that parenthood—while wonderful and full of cuddles—can also be a strain to our mental health. These stats show mental health issues among moms and dads are super common, so don’t feel alone.
There’s no shame in asking for help, but it is a shame when moms suffer in silence.