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Zucker School touches on depression in motherhood

Zucker School touches on depression in motherhood

Photo courtesy of Alanna Boland

In an effort to break the stigma surrounding postpartum depression (PPD), the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell hosted a special screening and discussion on the documentary, “Dark Side of the Full Moon: When Motherhood Meets Mental Health,” on Tuesday, March 5.

The event was put together by the Osler Society, a forum in the Zucker School that pursues the humanities among health care professionals, along with students from the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. Several student-led organizations in the Zucker School helped organize the event, including the OB/GYN Interest Group, the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) and Faces of Pathophysiology.

PPD is a severe form of depression that can develop within a few days or weeks after giving birth. It is part of a group of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) and although it is most common in biological mothers, it can occur in fathers and adoptive parents as well. Its symptoms include those associated with clinical depression, but it can also lead to people having difficulty bonding with their babies or even thoughts about harming themselves or their babies.

“Dark Side of the Full Moon” is told from the perspective of its narrator and director, Maureen Fura, who went through PPD after giving birth. Fura felt like she did not get the proper diagnosis or treatment she needed, and because of this, she decided to go on a cross-country road trip with one of the film’s producers, Jennifer Silliman, who also experienced PPD. 

During the monthslong trip, the two women interviewed other mothers who experienced PPD as well as medical professionals and scientists about the best ways to effectively diagnose and treat the disorder. The film documents this journey.

Lisa Martin, the director of humanities in medicine and specialist for contacts and communications at the Zucker School, gave an introduction to the film.

“Postpartum depression is a severe form of clinical depression related to pregnancy and childbirth,” she said. “Some studies have estimated that one in seven mothers suffer from postpartum depression. Yet, like many mental illnesses, there is a terrible stigma associated with [it].”

After Martin’s introduction, Sam Butensky, a second-year medical student, discussed how that stigma had affected the life of one woman he interviewed, whom he referred to by the name Susan.

Susan went through PPD in the early 1990s – before the disorder even had a name. Butensky explained that Susan found it difficult to speak with her husband, friends and health care providers about her depression because she was afraid they would think that “she wanted to hurt her child or was depressed because of her child,” despite the fact that she insisted she “loved her baby” and was “adamant” that the depression had nothing to do with it. 

“I hope that in today’s environment, Susan would have had a different experience with her depression,” Butensky said. “I hope that her story can help others who are experiencing postpartum depression not feel like they’re suffering alone.”

After Butensky’s speech, several other medical students came to the stage and read quotes from other women who had suffered from PPD.

“My heart aches for all the mothers out there that are struggling,” read Alexandra Surget, a first-year medical student. “I want them to know that it will pass, but that they must seek and accept help.”

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