05 October 2012

Pink is everywhere.

In honor of Strong Start Day, I'm doing a second blog post. I was inspired when I received yet another private message on Facebook requesting that all of the recipients participate in a game where the idea is to use a particular set of criteria to make up the status and then specifically NOT tell any males what the status is about when they ask. Here's the text of the one I've been getting the most often this year.

"Okay ladies it's that time of year again, in support of breast cancer awareness!! So, we all remember last year's game of writing a color as your status?.....or the way we like to have our handbag handy? Well this year, it's slightly different. You need to write your shoe size ( just the number) followed by the word 'inches' and how long it takes to do your hair... Remember last year so many people took part it made national news and, the constant updating of status reminded everyone why we're doing this and helped raise awareness!! Do NOT tell any males what the status means, keep them guessing!! And please copy and paste (in inbox) this to all your female friends to see if we can make a bigger fuss this year than last year!!! I did my part... now it's YOUR turn! Go on ladies...and let's have all the men wonder."
Being secretive about it and not telling males what your status means doesn't raise awareness. My recommendation would be that if you truly want to raise awareness, post statistics that make women aware that it could realistically happen to them, stories that illustrate that it is no respecter of persons and strikes people of all walks of life, facts (ex: men can get breast cancer too!!!), reminders of the importance of doing self-exams and what to do if you find a lump, current recommendations for when you should get mammograms and how often, risk factors, etc.

Beyond that though, where are the awareness efforts and widespread status games in the name of raising awareness for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders? Whenever I question the breast cancer awareness chain message status games and ask "Why do these not get sent for other forms of cancer?", the answer I get is usually that breast cancer is more prevalent, and more easily detected, than other forms of cancer. That may be true for breast cancer vs. other forms of cancer (although I still don't think it's a valid reason to totally ignore other forms and, in fact, is a perfect example of why more attention should be given to raising awareness about thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, etc.). However, it's certainly not true for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

As I wrote about in my earlier Strong Start Day 2012 post, Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress estimates that each year, in the United States of America alone, the number of women who suffer PostPartum Depression is approximately 950,000 women; she also estimates that approximately 1.3 million women suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, expanding from PPD to include those such as PostPartum OCD and PostPartum Psychosis. That's more women than are diagnosed annually with Breast Cancer (the National Cancer Institute puts that number at approximately 230,000 women).

PostPartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders can be diagnosed easily and early, but it requires education and awareness as to the realities and symptoms, and a departure from the stigma and myths that are so prevalent in today's society. Breast Cancer Awareness is a huge deal in the United States. Stores sell special pink merchandise to benefit various programs and groups. Sports teams have special jerseys. Pink is everywhere. I have no issue with the fact that people want to raise awareness of breast cancer. The issue I have is that sometimes it seems to be at the exclusion of other conditions and illnesses.

Someone asked me this evening why I would make it a contest. I don't see it as a contest at all. What I do see it as is yet another sign of the appalling lack of education and awareness regarding postpartum mood disorders. If the numbers Katherine has estimated are correct, a woman is more than 5 times more likely to suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (whether one or more) than she is to be diagnosed with breast cancer. And even worse, that doesn't negate the risk of breast cancer, you can obviously end up "double tapped".

All the women I know are very aware of breast cancer. Many, though, are not nearly as aware of the symptoms and realities of PPMAD. That bothers me to no end because I know first hand exactly how devastating and crippling they can be. I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to get treatment and had the support my of family and the few friends who knew what I was dealing with. I almost killed myself but I didn't. Too many women don't get that treatment. Some of them don't know it can be treated. Some keep quiet out of fear, guilt and shame. Some don't have access to resources to get treatment. Some don't have insurance that covers it and some don't have insurance at all. Some have no idea that PPMAD exist. 

These are some of the reasons why I speak up. These are some of the reasons why I'm so vocal in my support of education and awareness. These are some of the reasons why I participate in Strong Start Day in hopes of raising money for Postpartum Progress to be able to expand their resources and efforts for education and awareness, to be able to help and support more women in more ways (Katherine Stone has 6 other great reasons). These are some of the reasons why I'm asking people to join me in supporting Postpartum Progress. Pink is everywhere in America and I want to see that same level of awareness for PPMAD.


1 comment:

  1. I already smote that latest "awareness" thingie on FB. This was the crudest one yet. So far it's getting far less traction than previous campaigns. That's a good thing, because if these campaigns do anything beyond sounding puerile they HURT breast cancer awareness movements.

    I think some of the factors in why BC gets more press include:
    - Just about everyone has breasts, unless they lost them to breast cancer or an accident;
    - everyone is aware of breasts;
    - breasts are generally popular, except among people who've bought into lies and are insecure about theirs (too big, too small, too this, too that);
    - mental and emotional health topics are still taboo in many circles;
    - the lack of education for M&E health means people think everyone falls into one of two categories-- just fine or crazy as a loon.

    There are certainly more, but these are the ones that leaped out at me.