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13 Things To Do For Your Friend With Post-Natal Depression

Here are some things you can do to help.

Post-Natal Depression is as serious and indiscriminate as normal depression; it can affect any new mother and is difficult to process, diagnose, understand and treat. It can be confusing for not just the new mum but those around her too. If you suspect your friend has Post-Natal Depression here are some things you can do to help.

1. Ask them if they have Post-Natal Depression.

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It's easy for new mums to dismiss PND for tiredness or the baby blues and normalise their scary thoughts and behaviour. If your friend seems to be exhibiting the symptoms of PND then ask them – do you think you might have Post-Natal Depression? A GP will often use the Edinburgh Scale to diagnose Depression in a new mum, and apart from helping your friend diagnose and treat the condition it can also be a big comfort for a professional to recognise something's not right. Offer to go with them – saying the words out loud to my own GP was one of the scariest things I've ever done – but it only got better from there.

2. Tell them it's OK.

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Around 10-15% of new mothers develop PND and it's important to know it's nothing to be ashamed of. Drew Barrymore had it, Stacey Solomon had it, I had it. Openness and honesty at this time was essential and friends who had been or were going through a similar time were a lifeline; as well as being supportive I enjoyed the comfort of us getting together and laughing about how mad we all felt. It made me feel that tiny bit more normal.

3. Insist on helping out.

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Quite often the world, even for a mum with PND, can look much more positive after a couple of hours sleep and a long hot shower. For me being able to wash my hair or having a clean house would leave me feeling revitalised for days afterwards.

Offer to babysit so they can get back to bed, or if they don't want to leave their new baby do something useful for them, like clean the kitchen. They'll probably say they don't want you to but persevere – try not to take no for an answer.

4. Run their errands.

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When you have Post-Natal Depression even the smallest task outside the home can seem insurmountable so taking errands off your friend's to-do list can mean a huge weight lifted. From doing a food shop to going to the Post Office to fixing a blown lightbulb, every little really does help.

I would dread visiting busy shops when I was at my lowest, with no self-confidence or desire to see people it would be such an ordeal. Visitors who arrived with milk and bread were promoted to a godlike status.

5. Treat them.

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Flowers are the obvious choice to perk up a friend with PND but having to get rid of dead buds can be just another job to add to the heaving to-do list. Try alternative gifts that are geared towards pampering and healing: boxes from Don't Buy Her Flowers are specifically for mums and Buddy Boxes from the Blurt foundation are for those who need a boost.

For me it was all about looking after and cherishing myself – painting my nails, getting my eyebrows done, wearing a new lipstick. Since pausing my career to have my baby I felt like I ceased to exist outside the role of "mummy", so remembering to put myself first for a couple of hours made me feel human again.

6. Talk to their partner.

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PND can be confusing and upsetting for everyone, including the new mum's partner who may find it difficult to understand or help. Being home alone with a baby all day is isolating for a new mum, especially if feeding or sleeping is a struggle.

Unless you've been a mother of a newborn baby it's hard to realise how demanding they are, physically, mentally and emotionally, and without this understanding it can be easy for a couple to grow apart. Talk to them about practical things you can do together to help your friend and make sure they are coping with the changes a new baby brings, too.

7. Recommend resources for them.

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Post-Natal Depression is an isolating illness and it's easy to feel alone so it can be a huge comfort to read other mums' experiences or even write about their own. I wrote my way through my Post-Natal Depression experience, as did magazine editor Alison Perry from Not Another Mummy Blog. Peer support via groups like #PNDhour on Twitter are also invaluable.

8. Talk.

Flickr: petrolly / Via Creative Commons

Sometimes a small talk can make a huge difference; encourage your friend to chat about the way they feel and how they are finding motherhood.

If they feel uncomfortable talking to you about their Post-Natal Depression then direct them to PANDAS (Pre And Post-Natal Depression Advice and Support) who offer a free helpline and nationwide support groups.

9. Say "I love you. You will beat this"

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When you're in the midst of PND it's easy to make the world your enemy and to feel like you're going to be this way forever. My days were filled with so many negative emotions – sadness, inadequacy, anxiety – and I just couldn't see a way out of my mental health hole. But it happened: I look back at how crazy I felt three years ago and how far I've come today and I am so proud I fought my way out of the depression with the help of my beautiful children, parents and friends.

Let your friend know that this, too shall pass and that you love and support them. Give them a hug while you're at it.

10. Help them feel human.

Flickr: maggyvaneijk

It's easy for a new mum to be so consumed with their changing responsibilities in life that they forget who they once were. What did she enjoy treating herself to pre-baby: a haircut? Lunch out? A yoga class? Book her in and offer to babysit so she can remember that the little things bring a lot of pleasure.

I started getting bikini waxes when I had PND and to this day I still feel like this is always 30 minutes well-spent. I might be getting my hair forcibly ripped out by its root but it is time dedicated to me and only me and that is so precious.

11. Make them laugh.

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Nobody wants to go weeks without laughing. Text them a kitten video, a joke, the poo (or is it ice cream?) emoji, anything you think will raise a smile in what might be an otherwise low day. My escapism was those Real Life magazines that nobody seems to buy but you always find on trains. Reading about someone's uncle who grew a heart in a box would make me feel better about my life.

12. Bring them food.

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When you have PND the last thing you want to do is cook. Bring your friend something homemade and hearty that she only needs to heat up – a lasagne, a stew, a curry. Bonus points if there's enough for leftovers the next day. Everything looks better on a full belly.

13. Be silent.

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Being present is often the best gift you can give. Pop round for an hour, even if it's just to watch TV together in silence (I can recommend Jeremy Kyle for the live version of those Real Life magazines). Just knowing you're there will make all the difference.

Above all, you know your friend best. If you think your friend has PND patience, compassion, practical help and love are the order of the day – demonstrate these and you'll be a huge help.

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