“Today, I stand with every woman who is honest about motherhood or mental illness”.

mark latham column
Mark Latham.

 

 

 

 

Update:

Following Mark Latham’s Australian Financial Review article last week — which claimed “left feminism is akin to a psychoneurotic disorder” and criticised Fairfax columnist Lisa Pryor  for taking antidepressants — a Change.org petition calling on the newspaper to remove and publicly apologise has gained hundreds of signatures.

“Remove Mark Latham’s disgraceful attack on medical student and mother, Lisa Pryor from the website of the Australian Financial Review and force Latham to apologise,” the petition, started by journalist and Destroy the Joint founder Jenna Price, demands.

“Ask the AFR’s 100 Women of Influence to say enough is more than enough.”

You can sign the petition here.

Previously, Mamamia wrote.

By MIA FREEDMAN

Today, Mark Latham, former opposition leader, made an extraordinarily irresponsible and repugnant attack on women, on mothers and on anyone who seeks help for mental illness.

I do not wish to link to his column here because I fear the controversy he is courting will serve to increase his worth to the media men who give him a platform to sprout his reckless bile.

But there are some sentiments too important to ignore. Some ignorance that cannot be dismissed with an eye-roll. Some words that cut so deeply into the core of so many people who don’t have that same platform that left unaddressed, can taint and even destroy lives. These things must be resoundingly rejected and dismantled and kicked into the gutter where they belong. Publicly.

So let’s do this.

A few days ago, Mark Latham says he read a lighthearted column by respected Australian journalist, author, mother of two, Lisa Pryor, who decided to switch careers and just finished her medical degree while raising two small children with her husband Julian Morrow.

Writing about how she responds to the perennial question, “How do you do it?” Pryor revealed that her wry but truthful answer is always: “Caffeine and antidepressants”.

Mark Latham was incensed by this and devoted his own column to making a bizarre and nonsensical connection between anti-depressants, feminism and motherhood.

The crux of Latham’s argument comes down to this: Why do people like this have children in the first place? How will the children feel when they grow up and learn that they pushed their mother onto anti-depressants?”

mark latham column
Lisa Pryor

He goes on to say that women who work outside the home “demonise” their children. He says that people who take medication are copping out on their responsibilities.

He says that women who find parenting anything other than 24/7 joyful and 100% fulfilling have “neuroses” and an “ideological agenda to push” at the expense of their kids.

He says that most women would prefer to stay-at-home full time with their children if they could afford to.

He says……oh my brain hurts but there’s more.

He says he loves being at home with his children and that the sound of their laughter is his anti-depressant “every hour, every day. What is Pryor going on about?”

He says that feminists and any mother in paid employment, “don’t like children and don’t want to be with them.”

He says mothers who take on paid work use feminism “to free themselves from nature’s way.”

And he ends with a flourish, condemning anyone who takes medication as gutless. “At a personal level, it’s also cowardly: popping pills as an easy way out, instead of facing up to the responsibilities of adulthood.”

Mark Latham’s column is a piece of bile that should never have been published. It shamefully and cruelly annihilated Lisa Pryor, chastising her as a bad mother, a bad feminist and a bad human being. It serves as a message to every mother living with mental illness that she is not good enough and shames a woman who was brave enough to talk openly and honestly about depression in public.

We need more women like Lisa Pryor in the fight to normalise and accept depression and anxiety and other mental illnesses as part of life.

The publication of tirades like this will only scare women – and men –  back into the shadows.

Depression is Lisa Pryor’s truth as it is for many of us. And yet according to Pryor, the stigma of mental illness and medication is still widespread enough to make her admission startling to many who hear it.

She says she does it anyway, to help lessen that stigma and try to normalise something that, for many, is a shameful secret. Time after time, she says, the reaction to her “anti-depressants and caffeine” remark is relief. People are emboldened to open up about their own struggles and the shame evaporates. Astutlely, she notes that being honest about her struggles is “about the power of showing vulnerability, diagnosable or simply human, and how it makes others feel safe to do the same. I’d like to hope this helps build the kinds of connections that protect against psychological trouble in the first place.”

Damn straight. Shame and stigma are powerful barriers to seeking help. And one of the most vulnerable groups in our community are mothers. It’s difficult to get a firm number on how many women die due to post-natal depression and depression because the cause of death is listed under ‘suicide’ but the link is unquestionably there.

mark latham column
Mia.

As is the link between the stigma involved in reaching out for help and the reluctance of sufferers to do so. Because unbelievably, there are some dinosaurs who still believe seeking help is a cop out. Mark Latham is one.

This week is Post Natal Depression Awareness Week. And Mark Latham chose to celebrate it by shaming, castigating and ridiculing mothers who have depression.

Here’s what I’d like to say to Mark Latham and his editors at the Australian Financial Review (owned by Fairfax) who chose to publish his unspeakably cruel and wildly irresponsible column:

Today, I stand with every woman who is honest about motherhood. I stand with her as she writes or speaks about her struggles with identity and stress and finances and boredom and feeling overwhelmed and never having enough time to do it all and be it all and give it all.

I stand with her because I know that by talking about these things she is not being ungrateful or wishing for a different life. She is not resenting her children or regretting her decision to have them.

I stand with her because I know these feelings have no bearing on her love for her children or for being a mother.

Today I also stand with every person who has taken the courageous decision to improve their mental health in whatever way works for them, including with medication. Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of. It is smart and brave and selfless. It frees you from the prison of depression and anxiety and other conditions that – if left untreated – can prevent you from caring for those around you.

I stand with every woman who is brave enough to recognise she can’t be a good mother if she is too depressed or anxious or unstable to provide the level of care her children need and deserve. The kind of mother who can get through the day. Who can be mentally, physically and emotionally available to do the hard slog of parenting.

And yes, sometimes – often – it is a hard slog. As is mental illness. And saying so doesn’t make you a whinger or a coward, it makes you a human.

This is Post Natal Depression Awareness Week. Please share this post if, like us at Mamamia, you also stand with every woman who is honest about motherhood or mental illness.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, or you think you may have symptoms of a mental illness, you can visit Beyond Blue for information and support. If you ever need someone to just listen, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and speak with staff who are trained to listen and support you. 

And if post natal depression is affecting you or someone you know, you can visit the PANDA site for more information: http://www.panda.org.au/

In the past, many people in the spotlight have spoken publicly about their struggles with mental illness. Scroll through the gallery below to see celebrities who have opened up about their struggles and helped lift the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

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