My Baby, Psychosis & Me: A lesson in how not to make a documentary about mental health

“As the nurse showed us Hannah’s medication, including Haloperidol to help with intrusive thoughts, my heart sank. I understand that medication can be useful for people when they’re so overwhelmed – yet the statement that it was the cornerstone of treatment effectively shut down any hope I had that this documentary would explore the meaning of these experiences in any depth.”

In this article – as posted on her Behind the Label website – Rachel Waddingham reviews a recent BBC documentary about “postpartum psychosis”. She writes:

“Earlier this year, after my own miscarriage, I settled down on the sofa to watch ‘My Baby, Psychosis & Me’ – a BBC documentary on the journey of two women through a Specialist Mother & Baby Unit. Watching it so recently after my own loss was always going to be painful – yet the issue of how women in crisis are supported after the birth is personally relevant. One day I hope to have a child. As someone whose distress is sometimes takes the form of psychosis, I was eager to connect with the stories of women who had trodden this path before me.

Despite my loss, as the program unfolded I was warmed by the obvious love that the two new mothers felt for their children. I saw beautiful possibilities. I saw how women could, in the midst of such distress, fight to connect with their babies. The bucket loads of courage Hannah and Jenny demonstrated as they navigated their way as mothers impressed me. I shed welcome tears, imagining what might be in store for my husband and me if we were lucky enough to have a child of our own. I felt, and continue to feel, so much gratitude for the families who shared such personal and vulnerable parts of their lives with us.

This warmth, and an acute awareness of how much it may have took for these families to put their stories in the public eye, makes my critique of the documentary itself that much more tricky. Since its airing, I’ve struggled to find a way of saying what it is I find so deeply disturbing about this show without invalidating or co-opting the stories of the women featured. It’s a tightrope. Yet, to stay silent now the documentary has received a Mind Media Award feels like a disservice to the very real issues it brings up for me as a woman, a survivor and someone who is trying for a baby …”

You can read more from here.

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