I wrote this poem for Maternal Mental Health Week in support of moms with anxiety and depression, so they know they do not need to struggle alone. But many of these words are also relevant to men and those without children too who are going through mental health challenges. The heart of the message is this…

So many people are suffering from mental health issues (1 in 4 of us). Through unity, daily conversations, challenging one another (gently), practical support and any other small gesture, we can make such a difference to one another’s lives.

Just Reach Out

We become a mom and discover a whole new community,
Well, let’s reach out and create life-changing unity;
Let’s keep our eyes open at crèche, work or school,
For the moms who are struggling and fear revealing all.

Who?

To the new mom who wants to show she’s got it all together,
When she’s actually right at the end of a fraying tether;
To the perfectionist mom who’s always in control
And finds it hard to admit she fears her mommy role;
To the defensive mom of that ‘naughty child’,
Who’s desperate for help and not in denial;
To the working mom who feels she is never enough,
So as both mother and colleague she always plays it tough;
To the stay-at-home mom who needs to be reminded she is more,
Than the school-run and that endless list of domestic chores;
To the single mom who is juggling this tremendous role alone,
And just needs someone who’ll enthuse about those vital milestones;
To the mom who has ‘got it all’ so there’s no reason for concern,
Yet your instinct tells you there’s a silent issue that burns;
And to the mom who’s reached her limit and needs professional support,
But we don’t know how to reach out… because we’ve never been taught.

How?

Just show you understand,
With a smile, a hug or a reassuring hand;
A kind word or a random message of warm appreciation
Can transform a mood from sadness to elation.
The offer of a cuppa, a chat or a long walk,
Provide the opportunity to simply talk;
(Knowing someone’s noticed you’re finding it tough
Makes it easier to admit you’ve simply had enough).
Perhaps practical help is more your style,
You could offer to babysit for a while;
Bake a cake, cook a meal, do the school run,
Help out with the joyous bedtime ‘fun’.
If you sense there is deeper anxiety or fear,
Start the conversation, prompt the tears;
Suggest professional support is what she needs,
If she resists, at least you’ve planted the seed.
Whatever the gesture, it will all mean so much
To someone who’s in need of a gentle, loving touch;
We must end the silence so that we don’t feel alone,
None of us, as moms, need to struggle on our own!

Crashing From Nowhere

Crashing from being a strong, dynamic, energetic mom and teacher myself, into a severe depressive episode and a diagnosis of PTSD, was an incredible shock. I have since been through the hardest eighteen months of my life.

With the help of an amazing support network, I am now fully recovered and determined to make sure that something, anything, positive comes out of this experience. The lessons I have learned, many of them the hardest way possible, may well help someone else, if only I can manage to share them in a way that people can connect with.

Depression is Isolating and Lonely

One stark and harsh point I discovered about being mentally ill is how intensely isolating and lonely it can be. My family and very close friends were brilliant and supportive every step of the way. Yet many other people simply disappeared. Their silence was deafening. It compounded the shame that I already felt and confirmed the sense of worthlessness I was feeling. I have since discovered that many of those people who were silent simply didn’t know how to reach out. They feared saying the wrong thing. Or making the situation worse. Their silence was actually nothing to do with the stigma or shame of my illness, as I perceived.

Let’s Have Daily Conversations that Matter

On reflection, I have also realized that had mental health been a topic that is discussed more openly on a daily basis, my crashing and burning might not have been so extreme. Looking back, I now know that my mental state was deteriorating for a good few months before I hit the wall. Had I been more aware sooner, or had someone given me an encouraging push in the direction of professional help a bit earlier, than perhaps my illness wouldn’t have got so serious. Perhaps not, of course. But there is always a chance.

And Please Remember…

The girl in the office who’s looking suicidal might just have a hangover; while the cheerful, cocky guy who cracks jokes all day, might just be weeping inside. Let’s not judge people’s mental state by their appearance. Don’t be afraid to probe, to question, to reach out. You might just change a life.

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Rhiannon Phillips-Bianco

Raw, honest and open as a mental health warrior. Keen mental health advocate. Writer, poet and lover of words that encourage and inspire. Third culture, bilingual kids in a fab family of four + one (four-legged fluff ball that barks). Identical twin and mother of twins. Lived in UK, Italy and The Netherlands. Passionate primary school teacher. Mad about sport – cycling, squash, swimming, tennis, football – it varies. I just need to move!

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