Media coverage is one of the most powerful tools we have for raising awareness of postpartum psychosis (PP) amongst the general public. We know that PP can affect anyone – regardless of health or social background, and, as such, we are passionate about tackling stigma around this devastating illness to help women and their families speak out, seek support and feel less alone.
Conversely, the impact of stigmatised coverage can be hugely problematic, potentially impacting recovery for all affected by the illness. That is why we are keen to work with journalists, copy editors, researchers and script writers to ensure that all portrayals – whether factual or fictional – benefit from real life stories and expert knowledge.
In this guide you will find:
- Support with fictional portrayals on TV, radio, theatre or in literature
- Journalism – tips on positive vs negative reporting
- Working with storytellers
- Language guide
- Fact check
- Research: What needs to be communicated
- Further media support
Support with fictional portrayals on TV, radio, theatre or in literature
The team at APP has lots of experience working with scriptwriters and researchers for major TV programmes including Hollyoaks and EastEnders. Additionally, several of our volunteers have written stage shows, poetry and memoirs based on their experiences. You can check out some of these creative storytelling formats here.
Should you wish to work with APP’s team of academic researchers, clinical partners, and experts by experience as you develop your creative work, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journalism – tips on positive vs negative reporting
Tips for responsible reporting on PP
• Include key facts and information about PP – such as prevalence, symptoms, and treatment (see our notes to editors)
• Include at least one real life, sympathetic case study from somebody who has experienced or been affected by PP
• Source expert comment from a specialist researcher or clinical professional (you can meet our team of experts here)
• Include stories of recovery to instil hope in readers who may be currently struggling. Including more than one case study will help your audience to understand that PP is not a rare, bizarre experience but a life-threatening complication of childbirth affecting 1-2 in every 1000 women.
• Signpost to support – as the UK’s dedicated charity, we have a wealth of information on our website to support anybody struggling with PP (app-network.org)
Tips on how to avoid stigma
• Provide copy editors with headline suggestions or advise them on what language / angles to avoid when writing headlines, to ensure inaccurate and damaging sensationalism does not occur (see our language guide).
• Avoid using triggering images that represent a time when somebody was acutely unwell.
• Avoid using stigmatising images that sensationalise the experience – if in doubt, always opt for imagery that represents recovery and motherhood/family.
• Avoid going into too much detail if somebody talks about suicide as part of the piece. Methods, for example, should never be discussed (see the Samaritans’ media guidelines on suicide for further information)
• When listing the symptoms of PP, opt for the most common, rather than the most controversial. We would always suggest listing the following: hallucinations, delusions, elation or depression and confusion.
• Do not suggest that the illness is likely to lead to violent behaviour – this is an extremely rare occurrence and not representative of PP
• Do not suggest that PP is a type of, or more severe form of, Postnatal Depression. The two illnesses are very different and, while it is common for somebody with PP to go on to develop PND, the two manifest in very different ways and require very different forms of treatment.
Working with storytellers
Our storytellers are individuals who have either personally experienced or been personally affected by PP. As cases of PP are always classed as an emergency, these experiences can be traumatic for all involved, so interviews must be handled sensitively.
However, storytellers can bring real hope and authenticity to pieces, and as such, all of our volunteers are passionate about sharing their story.
Here are some tips on working with APP storytellers:
• Always allow the storyteller to hear a read back or to see a copy of the article to ensure that they are comfortable with the final representation and context – reflecting on psychotic episodes can be confusing so its good to give the storyteller ample opportunity to review the finished piece
• Never ask a storyteller to provide photos from the time they were acutely unwell – if you would like to use photos, images representing recovery are always best
• As psychosis is still one of the most stigmatised of mental health problems, please do not ask a storyteller to share their full details if they have indicated that they would like to remain anonymous or use a first-name only approach
• Please be aware that, when sharing sensitive information, there is a possibility that a storyteller might change their mind during the process. This very rarely happens, as our storytellers all work closely with us and receive full support throughout. However, if it does happen, we will be able to help you quickly secure an alternative interview.
• Postpartum psychosis used to be known as puerperal psychosis. We prefer now to use the term postpartum psychosis (or PP in abbreviated form)
• The word psychosis should not be confused with psychopathy - as is sometimes the case. Psychopathy is not a medical term and shares no similarities with psychosis. Similarly, ‘psychotic’ relates to psychosis (the experience of hallucinations or delusions), not psychopathy.
• The ‘baby blues’ should not be used to describe PP. The baby blues is a common, short-lived, and mild experience that many women experience after childbirth that includes tearfulness and mood lability– it is not the same as diagnosed PP or PND.
Please see our notes to editors section for relevant facts and figures relating to PP.
If you would like to check whether any aspects of a storyteller’s experience are a common feature of PP, or indeed fact check any part of your article, we have a team of knowledgeable colleagues who would be more than happy to assist. Email email@example.com
Postpartum psychosis: What needs communicating?
In order to find out what sort of media attention would benefit Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), the APP team commissioned a report from Lucy Vernall, who runs a project called 'IdeasLab' that works with university projects helping them to gain media attention for their work.
Telephone interviews were conducted with a group of women with lived experience of postpartum psychosis, asking them:
• what needs communicating about postpartum psychosis
• who it needs communicating to
• how it should be communicated
Key conclusions from the report:
• As a matter of priority, recovering women need access to basic information about postpartum psychosis: “It’s an illness like any other”; “You don’t get it because you are not a good mother or because you can’t cope”; “Symptoms and behaviour may seem bizarre but they are a common part of the illness”; “ You will recover “; “Your child can be happy and healthy-you can go on to enjoy your child like a ‘normal’ mum”. Most of all, women would like to hear from and see other women who have experienced postpartum psychosis and are ‘normal’ and live normal lives (Video, audio, web information).
• Partners need access to information: “This change in the person you love is not forever, it is a matter of time”; “How to get help”. It is a particularly hard time for partners. Partners would benefit from information from men who have been through it (leaflets or web information).
• In the long term women often become very interested in the condition and want to read books or scholarly articles. There is a need to understand what happened. This could be achieved by talking to other women, reading accounts of people’s experiences, writing accounts of one’s own experience. These could be collated on a website or in a book.
• Health visitors, midwives, GPs need to know how to spot symptoms, explanation of illness, pathways to recovery. (Leaflets, training days, education syllabus).
• Increased awareness in general public. Having some awareness beforehand would make the experience less frightening and strange for women and families. If more people knew about postpartum psychosis , it would be easier to talk to other mothers and friends about experiences. (Target pregnancy books and leaflets, pregnancy / baby club websites, TV , radio).
• Many women who have had postpartum psychosis feel very strongly about communicating information about the condition and helping other women. They want to bring about something good from what they experienced. They suggested setting up media group of women who are happy to share their stories; network of local ‘reps’ to talk to groups such as NCT, midwives, GPs.
A copy of the report is available on request. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Further media support
Should you wish to discuss our guidance further, arrange to speak with an APP expert or storyteller, or require further information or imagery, please contact the team at email@example.com