My response to the AFR: You owe Lisa Pryor and your readers an apology - Women's Agenda

My response to the AFR: You owe Lisa Pryor and your readers an apology

How will the children feel when they grow up and learn that they pushed their mother onto anti-depressants?

Considering that suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in developed countries, I imagine that the child of any mother (or father) who seeks treatment for mental illness, would be overwhelmed with gratitude. Because, whilst the consequences of the alternative are uncomfortable to contemplate, they are all too real.

This context was notably absent from Mark Latham’s column Why left feminists don’t like kids, in which he described a mother’s decision to take medication for mental illness “as an easy way out, instead of facing up to the responsibilities of adulthood”. 

That this argument was tabled and published during Post-Natal Depression Awareness Week, a week in which mothers are encouraged to do the very thing Latham denigrates, neatly illustrates why the stigma surrounding mental health continues to flourish despite concerted campaigns to arrest it.

Mental illness is not a myth, a label or an indulgence that anyone – rich or poor, man or woman – casually luxuriates in. It’s a serious health issue that affects around 20% of Australians every year. The lives it affects are not by determined by a person’s wealth, their political affiliations, their occupation or the depth of their love for their children. Like many illnesses, it does not discriminate.

“Women I speak to in western Sydney, who have no neuroses or ideological agenda to push, regard child-rearing as a joy,” Latham wrote

He ought to expand his focus group because research clearly indicates that anti-depressant use among women isn’t greater in higher socio-economic status areas. As the Crikey editor Marni Cordell wrote today: “Maternal depression isn’t more common among lefty feminists than among working-class mothers, it’s the reverse.”

The decision to seek and accept treatment for mental illness is not a concession of defeat or a mark of weakness. Yet it remains a decision that many avoid because of the mistaken belief that it is.

According to Beyond Blue, each year roughly 40,000 Australian women experience postnatal depression by the time their baby is three months old.

When untreated, PND has a devastating effect on the mother’s mental health. More than 50 per cent of mothers with postnatal depression don’t seek help, in part, because they worry that they will be seen as a failure.

Stigma is the insidious force that perpetuates that belief and prevents individuals from seeking treatment. Because of that media organisations have a widely recognised obligation to report on matters pertaining to mental illness accurately, sensitively and responsibly. 

In publishing Mark Latham’s denigration of Lisa Pryor’s decision to take anti-depressants, and lending that argument the credibility of a respected national newspaper, The Australian Financial Review wholly failed in its discharge of this responsibility. It owes its readers and Lisa Pryor an apology for the error.

This was published by The Financial Review 

If you agree that the Financial Review owes Lisa Pryor an apology please add your name to this petition.

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