Horror and Hysteria

This headline greeted readers of the Wall Street Journal last week.

“The Tragedy of Being a New Mom in America: One in five mothers in the U.S. suffers from mood and anxiety disorders during pregnancy or soon after birth. For many, help is hard to find.”

What followed was a shallow, flawed article filled with heart-rending emotional accounts. It reminded me of one of the many reasons I canceled my subscription to the newspaper. If I wanted to read hyperbolic hysteria, I would pick up a gossip magazine at the supermarket.

The article, with its panicky title, especially dismayed me because I dearly value motherhood. Giving birth is a monumental physical, spiritual, and emotional experience. Hormonal upheaval is real as is the taxing reality of caring for a helpless, demanding newborn. New mothers do need more support than many get, and some cases do swerve into extremes. Women with postpartum depression need fast, compassionate, and tangible help.

Treating the issue simplistically and raising specters of the overused tropes of race, lack of government-mandated maternity leave, and patriarchy does little to actually help anyone. Coinciding, as the article does, with FDA approval for a new pill aimed at women with postpartum depression leaves the cynical among us wondering if money and pharma-lobbying power had more to do with the shocking statistics being relayed than actual in-depth investigative reporting. Hopefully, the pill will be a blessing to those who truly need it. One also hopes (though past performance suggests that only a blind optimist can have such hope) that part of the marketing plan does not include increasing the potential number of women sufferers and downplaying non-medicinal, and sometimes politically incorrect, strategies that are effective.

We have morphed into a society that increasingly teaches students that while there is no one single, correct answer to a mathematical problem, serious life issues easily surrender to glib and simplistic catchwords. The result is a mathematically illiterate citizenry with few logical thinking skills. If we don’t make a U-turn soon, the real minority in the United States will be mentally healthy, emotionally fit women and men who can tackle complex issues with judgment and wisdom.

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