Support for Co-Workers of the Affected
After a woman goes on maternity leave or leaves a workplace to have her baby, co-workers may wonder about her health. If they learn that the new mother is suffering from postpartum depression, co-workers will feel concerned for the mother and wonder how they can offer support.
If your co-worker is struggling with postpartum depression, here is some guidance to follow on how you can support her during this difficult time.
Before She Returns to Work
If your co-worker is on maternity leave and you know she is struggling with postpartum depression, you may wonder how you can support her.
Many women may be conscious of the potential stigma surrounding postpartum depression. Because of this, women with postpartum depression may be reluctant to share too much with their co-workers out of fear, guilt or shame.
To help support her and ease those feelings, here are some tips for encouraging a co-worker who has postpartum depression:
- Assure her that her job will still be waiting when she returns.
- Don’t overwhelm her with work talk. Only provide updates about work if she asks.
- Designate one person to communicate with her while she is recovering, or take turns.
- Remember that recovery takes a long time. Continue to support her decision if she needs to take a longer hiatus than planned.
Because your relationship with your co-worker may be work-oriented, you may want to continue to talk about work with her. Remember that the postpartum period is a time for recovery, especially when the woman is facing depression. Discussing work and responsibilities may only add more stress to the new mother as she recovers.
For co-workers, it’s important to understand the nature of postpartum depression and that her symptoms are the result of her condition. They are not a reflection of her.
When She Returns to Work
When your co-worker returns to work after her maternity leave ends, she may still be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression. She may choose to share her struggle with select co-workers or she may keep it to herself.
Whether she shares her postpartum depression symptoms or not, it’s important to support and engage with her in the workplace. You may notice residual postpartum depression symptoms or that she is feeling happy to be back at work doing a job that she enjoys.
Many women choose to return to work before they have fully recovered from postpartum depression to take their minds off of their condition and find a purpose outside of being a mother. This may help or worsen her condition.
Even if a woman feels she is fully recovered and returns to work, it’s possible for her to experience a relapse of postpartum depression after she takes on the responsibilities of work again.
Here are some ways for co-workers to support a woman with postpartum depression after she returns to work:
- Listen to her and offer sympathy if she opens up about her struggles.
- Avoid passing judgement or questioning her ability to handle her job. That is rude and will make her feel worse.
- Treat her the same as you did (or better) before she went on maternity leave.
- Refrain from asking too many personal questions if she isn’t yet ready to open up about her condition.
It is important for co-workers to offer support by trusting that the mother is doing what is best for herself and her family. Postpartum depression is a long-term condition. It will take time for it to completely go away. With ongoing support and care from the people around her, she will eventually be able to make a full recovery.