Mainstream media is the primary news source for most Americans seeking to learn the facts and form opinions. Major networks, publications and reputable websites are powerful resources which help citizens clarify issues of social relevance. The responsibility these news organizations bear to present objective information about crucial pending legislation has long been the proud mission of respected journalists, news editors, and most recently bloggers.
Some, like CBS Cares, raise the bar to ethical heights by staying out of politics and presenting unbiased, empirically based information to educate consumers about social, mental health and healthcare conditions. Lamentably, such judicious use of media power is not always maintained.
Time Magazine (which has changed ownership over the years), is struggling like all print media to retain subscriptions and news stand sales. Its once bountiful pages have been greatly reduced as the economic burdens of publishing takes its toll on the industry. One would hope then, that striving for objective journalistic excellence would be even more critical, lest speculative reporting hasten a publication’s descent to tabloid status.
The recent article which appeared “The Melancholy of Motherhood”, presents a thinly veiled bias against life saving legislation – The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act – which continues its steady march toward adoption.
The article was researched, outreach made to many who attested to the critical need for this bill. Several of our nation’s most prominent PPD researchers such as Dr. Katherine Wisner, and Dr. Michael O’Hara were interviewed; however some comments were taken out of context to apparently support an editorial view.
Completely ignored was any reference to the interview with Katherine Stone, author of Postpartum Progress, the most widely read blog in the U.S. on postpartum depression, or any attempt to interview Former NJ First Lady Mary Jo Codey, who along with her husband, spearheaded our nation’s first PPD legislation which has led to the saving of so many lives in New Jersey. Both of these brave ladies are PMAD survivors who continue to challenge the stigma of maternal mental illness.
Also glaringly absent, were the many family founded national non profit foundations, formed after the tragic losses of beloved wives, daughters and friends. One example is the Jennifer Mudd Houghtaling Foundation out of Chicago, which sponsors an annual educational event attracting researchers and advocates from around the world. Another is Jenny’s Light which hosts fundraisers each year to help end the devastation of perinatal mood disorders.
Postpartum Support International, the world’s leading non profit volunteer organization on postpartum issues, with coordinators in every United State and 42 countries around the world, was not even referenced, despite its wealth of information, statistics and world wide prominence on this issue. Nor did the article mention the long and impressive list of medical and professional organizations who have long endorsed this life saving legislation.
Nor, did they dare direct readers to www.perinatalpro.com where the petition in support of the legislation is maintained and updated daily. The petition lists, not only constituent supporters from every state, but a national listing of respected organizations long familiar with the need for attention to maternal mental health.
Finally, there was no call made to the office of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez , the bill’s primary senate sponsor to clarify what was actually in the bill or fact check its initiatives. In short: Time magazine ignored, excluded or distorted the most prominent sources of information on this critical legislation.
The entire focus of the article was on medication and screening, NEITHER OF WHICH is endorsed or subsidized by this bill! The article completely missed the thrust and intention of the bill’s initiatives, instead, clouding its worthy goals with speculative discussion emanating from the protests of adversaries with agendas completely separate from the bill’s stated intentions.
While quickly mentioning that mandated screening and medication are no where to be found in the bill’s language (like the fine print at the bottom of your phone bill), the bulk of the article half heartedly legitimizes the claim that the bill’s passage will medicalize pregnancy and indiscriminately medicate America’s mothers.
This far stretch association is made through the unsubstantiated implications of vague associations with pro PHARMA factions who had no involvment in the bill’s drafting or promotion.
Like the hapless person who comes between a dog and its bone, The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act has become the pawn of frustrated anti mental health and anti pharma factions. Having lost too many ill fought battles, (thankfully, science, medicine, clinical practice and research still trump hysteria), they have seized upon this benign and life saving legislation to vindicate their rage. But the argument fails to stick because The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act doesn’t mandate screening, or subsidize the medication that appears to be the primary issue of protest.
Those who do not “believe” in maternal mental illness and who would deny others the right to choose the full range of treatments leading to recovery have thankfully gained little ground in attempts to set mental health back to the dark ages or distort the mission of the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act. But their PR machine is intensely focused on this challenge and was apparently irresistible to Time’s need to create controversy by giving print space to blatant misrepresentations of this life saving bill.
Barack Obama, the first presidential candidate to sign on to this long overdue bill, is hardly a proponent of entrenched interests. Nor is Congressman Bobby L. Rush who saw the bill through a successfull and nearly unanimous House passage earlier this year.
And the bill’s lead senate sponsor, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez is among the most pro social, pro family and pro women’s healthcare senators on Capitol Hill, hailing from the first state in the nation to enact protective legislation.
One commonality among the bill’s impressive list of endorsers representing millions of knowledgeable constituents? They have all actually READ the bill and can intelligently, truthfully (and calmly) discuss its intiatives. Let’s hope those who were involved in this suspension of judgement,will review, rethink, reposition and republish their findings after they, too, familiarize themselves with the facts and objectively meet their journalistic responsibilities. Meanwhile, those who have suffered, studied, survived, advocated, educated and intervened for maternal mental health, have reason to be hopeful as the bill continues its progress towards passage.