Tuesday 23 April 2019

Shonagh shines spotlight on postnatal depression in new documentary

Shonagh Lyons, who has released an audio documentary on postnatal depression
Shonagh Lyons, who has released an audio documentary on postnatal depression

David Looby

Wexford woman Shonagh Lyons has released a documentary on Postnatal Depression, detailing her own harrowing experience of the illness.

The audio documentary was released in early March and is available on the Beat 102-103 website.

Shonagh, from Crosstown, produced So Much More than the Baby Blues after experiencing Postnatal Depression following the birth of her daughter Eve on St Stephen's Day 2014.

Following Eve's birth Shonagh wanted to feel what every mother felt - but didn't. What followed was a challenging journey; one of acceptance and understanding, or as Shonagh puts it, 'learning how to breathe all over again'.

'Appearances might be deceptive, but they find themselves to be king in a world fuelled by social media dependence. More than ever, mothers-to-be are expected to have perfect deliveries, perfect babies and perfect lives as they hashtag their way towards a maternal utopia,' Shonagh said.

In Ireland, 60 per cent of women struggle in some shape or form after childbirth, with a further 11 per cent going on to develop some form of anxiety, depression or psychosis.

Postnatal Depression (PND) falls under this very umbrella.

As Shonagh's documentary reveals through both her own and others' accounts, PND is so much more than just the baby blues. Delicately contrasting darkness with hope, Shonagh's profound first-hand experience is threaded with that of Lisa and Amy's - two Co Wexford mums who also went through PND and wanted to share their experience of how it impacted on their lives to other mothers.

'It's misunderstood. And if it's misunderstood it's not spoken about. There's an absolute lack of awareness right now,' Shonagh said.

Working on the documentary proved to be a journey of personal discovery, one which revealed that Shonagh wasn't alone.

A desire to hide, discard, and even die were all unifying emotions that the mothers who Shonagh spoke with shared. Above all was the fear of being judged for suffering from an array of instincts that seemed to have no name or place for a mother during a period often labelled the happiest time of adulthood.

Thankfully for Shonagh, and the other mothers who featured, there was a turning point. 'I was in the bedroom with Eve. I tickled her. She laughed. I always thought she didn't laugh that much but seeing her face light up formed this instant bond, a connection. However, the second she stopped smiling, that feeling evaporated. That's when I decided to visit my GP,' Shonagh said.

Several successful sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy followed. Just like the symptoms of PND, the prognosis is often ubiquitous: 'From there, an inconvenience turned into a blessing,' said Shonagh - a transformation shared with the other mothers spoken to at the support group.

Despite positive outcomes for those featured, more needs to be done, Shonagh said. 'Today there is just one dedicated support group in the Republic that caters for mothers with PND - Cork's Postnatal Depression Ireland. Meanwhile, Wexford is the only county in the process of employing a dedicated specialist mental health midwife. We need to open-up our conversations, remove the myths and the stigma,' adds Shonagh. 'There is a huge amount of guilt associated with PND and it's vital that women are given the support they need to overcome it.'  

It took almost three years for Shonagh to get back to her old self. Today, she shares an unbreakable bond with Eve and an enviable ambition to succeed. In her own words: 'I had PND. I don't have it anymore.'

To contact Postnatal Depression Ireland, call 021-4922083 or email Samaritans' 24-hour freephone helpline is at 116-123; you can also message 087-2609090 (standard text rates apply) or email in the Republic or in Northern Ireland.

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