postpartum psychosis BBC documentary
I have enormous respect for everyone involved in this programme. The women, their partners and parents, the doctor, nurses and BBC producers have created something new and important: an honest, sensitive and informative portrayal of mental illness and recovery. This article explains the question of consent. The programme is ethically water-tight and this, paradoxically, has facilitated a deeper, up-close rendering than previous documentaries have achieved. These women have shared on behalf of the rest of us what has usually been hushed up. Now people who have not had to go through this traumatic experience can learn about it. The programme went beyond the safety of the generic and addressed the scary specifics. For example, Hannah broke a jar of baby food so that she could cut her neck with the glass and Jenny said she ‘could be prime minister by the end of the day’.
Dr Gregoire is a role model for his colleagues and a key teacher and journalist of public health. His compassionate professionalism is striking throughout the programme and his article.
The partners and parents in this programme supported the women lovingly and bravely whilst managing their own fear. Embarrassment kindles fear and that is why we must chip away at the lonely secrecy of mental illness. Maybe when you leave your loved one in a mental health facility and go to work and your colleague says, ‘How is she?’, you won’t have to speak in a whisper or brush off the question. You might feel able to say, ‘She’s so ill she sometimes wants to die but she knows she has to stay alive for us’ or ‘She thinks there are spiders all over the walls’ – just as you can talk about breasts and bowels and chemotherapy now. Stiff upper lip and Mind over matter could become obsolete phrases.