These Ads Are Everything That's Wrong With How We Talk About PPD

ppd silence sucks campaign

Trying to encourage moms to speak up about postpartum depression (PPD) is a noble cause. But a new awareness campaign by Sage Therapeutics, a biotech company that's currently developing a new treatment for PPD, proves sometimes even having great intentions can't save you from an epic fail. The company's campaign, called Silence Sucks, features images of crying adult women sucking on pacifiers -- and it's got actual adult women all over the Internet saying WTF?


The ads are part of a campaign to raise awareness for postpartum depression. They feature a variety of sad-looking women -- some with tears streaming down their faces -- looking directly into the camera and sucking on pacifiers.

...Because that's exactly what postpartum depression looks like, right? Just a bunch of emotional ladies bottling up their feelings like babies sucking on binkies.

Here are some other shots from their website:
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It's clear they were trying to convey the deep sorrow of PPD, as well as make a clever play on words with the pacifiers and "silence sucks" slogan, but come on -- who thought this was a good idea?

Unfortunately, the #fail doesn't end there. Once you click through to the campaign's actual website, you're told that PPD affects 10-20 percent of all women, that symptoms include sadness and anxiety, and that PPD can affect your ability to bond with your baby. "Click here to learn the risks [of PPD]," reads one option. And then you click through and you're greeted with all the ways your anxiety and depression can hurt your newborn.
But what about moms? Where do we fit into our own depression?

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If you judge PPD by this campaign, women who suffer from PPD are infantile. We can't speak up for ourselves -- and worse, we refuse to do so at the expense of our babies. Never mind that the person actually suffering from depression and anxiety is the one actively hurting and most acutely in need; never mind that nearly half of PPD sufferers don't seek treatment because of the shame and stigma attached to the condition; never mind that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology had to institute special guidelines in 2015 just to get doctors to properly screen women for PPD to begin with.

This campaign speaks to the heart of what truly sucks about the way we talk about PPD: Women are blamed, shamed, stigmatized, infantilized, and told we're hurting our babies. But so rarely are we told that what we're going through is normal, that it's okay, and that we -- as women and human beings, not just as mothers -- are deserving of help and treatment.

As one Instagram commenter pointed out on the company's post, "Showing adult women sucking on pacifiers while crying does nothing to legitimize the emotions experienced by women during postpartum depression but rather diminishes and trivializes their experiences."

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Not to mention, treating the silence surrounding PPD as if it's the fault of the sufferers themselves -- rather than a reaction to the way our society looks down on mothers with PPD -- is misguided, at best. A 2014 survey by BabyCenter found that nearly 77 percent of participants believe moms who have PPD are a risk to their babies, and many moms are afraid to talk about their symptoms because they don't want to be seen as a threat to their infants' well-being. The last thing PPD sufferers need is to be blamed for not speaking up and given a guilt trip about all the ways they're hurting their babies by staying silent.

When it comes to postpartum depression, Sage Therapeutics gets one thing right: Silence does suck. Maybe one day we'll find a way to stop infantilizing, shaming, and guilting new moms long enough to actually have a conversation about it.

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