Working Status and Mental Health

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Working Status and Mental Health
52
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 12:29am
Now that I've been told I have a serious personality disorder in a wild subthread below...the topic of mental health is nagging me.

This summer in Minnesota there have been two news stories about mothers who have harmed their children (one threw her twins off a bridge, the other slit her baby's throat.) From what I can gather from the newspaper stories (and it isn't all that clear,) one mother was not employed and the other was a professor. It is assumed that the first mother was depressed and possibly psychotic and the second mother was suffering some kind of post partum psychosis. Of course, both cases are very extreme.

Now my question. Who do you think is more likely to be at risk of developing mental health issues--WOHMs or SAHMs? Or no difference? Do you have an image of the SAHM going a little nutty because she is staying home with (potentially) demanding children all day, perhaps isolated and overwhelmed, temporarily not getting a chance to pursue her other dreams and goals, resenting the way society puts little value on her contributions? Or does the WOHM trying to do it all have more mental fragility because she is burning the candle on both ends, trying to do her best at work and at home and never really getting on top of either, completely undervalued? Who is more likely to snap?

I don't know exactly why I think this, but I think SAHMs are more at risk of developing mental illness. Something about living in this culture where your job is your identity and the continual message that we don't really "count" seems to push people over the edge. WOHMs are too busy to overanalyze their lot in life ad nauseum and therefore have it better.

Curious to see what everyone thinks. Please comment even if you don't know WHY you think that way.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 8:15am
I don't think it matters at all. Its a physiological thing; why would work status make you more susceptible?

The only way I can see it playing a part is that SAHMs are sometimes more isolated. More alone. And not only is it possible that isolation plays in, but there are less people to see the signs. So less chance of getting help. However, I know plenty of WOHMs that isolate themselves too. So, once again, it a person/personality thing instead of a work status thing.

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Something about living in this culture with the continual message that you're a bad mother and have your priorities wrong seems to push people over the edge.

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I'm a WOHM and I do PLENTY of overanalyzing; I did no less when I was a SAHM. Its a personality type that allows overanalyzation.

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I think .. the two women you described are the same woman. Jane Doe has a personality and brain that is susceptible to depression. She SAH and you get the woman in your first example and she goes off the deep end. She WOH and you get the woman in your second example and she goes off the deep end.

Hollie

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 10:59am
I think it's personality dependent and how you react to life stressors. I personally am more likely to go off the deep end at home, but other people freak out at the thought of having to balance work and family. Totally personality based IMO.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 11:02am
I think it is too hard to call. The subject of mental health is so complex because it does not happen in a vacuum. What is her family of orgin? Does she have a genetic propensity for mental illness? Does she have a circle of support?

We had a case of a teenage mother slitting the throat of her newborn and leaving her in a trunk. I feel so sorry for the little girl because she will always look at her throat and know her mother did it. Tried to kill her. Shudder-it makes me cry to think about it. The case could be made that she had more pressure as a teenager than an older mother. I think that mental illness has no particular victim. It can strike anyone-young, old, male, female, working, staying home, rich or poor.

Kristi

"I do not want to be a princess! I want to be myself"

Mallory (age 3)

      &nbs

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-31-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 11:38am
You have the question backward. It's not "is SAH or WOH more likely to exacerbate mental illness?" The proper question is, "is a mentally ill person more likely to WOH or SAH?"

For a lot of reasons I won't go into here, I have more experience with this question than most people would ever want to have. No work status is going to "make" you mentally ill; mental illness is organic, it's a matter of brain chemistry.

If we are talking about mothers acting out and harming their children, a review of case studies will probably show that most mothers who do so are SAHP's. However, what that really tells you is that more mentally-ill people are likely to become SAHP's than to WOH. The reason really has nothing to do with children, except that their existence is the excuse that the parent needs to leave the workforce. It is often very hard to hold down a job if you are mentally ill, even if you are being treated. The drugs can make you sleepy, or cause other side-effects, and the disease itself tends to play hell with your ability to concentrate and/or manage emotions. For someone in this situation, a legitimate unquestionable reason to check out of the workforce is going to seem like a gift from God.

The thing is, if you can't concentrate well enough to satisfy a timeclock, you really can't concentrate well enough to safely supervise small children, either. Unfortunately, when a parent SAH, that parent is in charge, so she can do whatever she wants to do, or more importantly, NOT do what she does not want to do. The world of the SAHP is the perfect place for a mentally ill person to hide from herself and her illness. (Not to say that men don't do this, too; but it is more likely that someone will question a man's motives for SAH; a woman won't be questioned.)

Does this mean that I think that all SAHP's are mentally ill? Of course not. However, I *am* going to argue that a lot of mentally ill people will embrace SAH parenthood for their own ends if they can get away with it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 2:31pm
I agree with you about SAHM's being more at risk. I actually have had PPD, and have developed depression during all three of my pregnancies. I have been diagnosed with mild general depression, but nowhere near the extent to which pregnancy and PPD effect me. That and money issues are the reasons we decided not to have any more after ds 3. I have been a SAHM for most of the time I have been a mother. (Though I have also WOH PT as well as FT) I have seen a decrease in my problems at times during my working periods. Don't get me wrong, I love being at home with my kids, but at times I feel like I need more adult time, and when I don't speak to another adult for days besides dh and the cashier at the grocery store, it gets to me. SAHM's, especailly those with a history of "mental problems", are certainly more likely to feel isolated, ignored, and frustrated, IMO.

And, as an aside to the board in general, coming on message boards like this one for that adult contact and being essentially told that you have very little worth or are not much of a benefit to society since you don't bring home a paycheck, doesn't help much. I know the vast majority of the WOHM's don't feel that way, but a few here do, and have said as much. Just my little snide remark for the day. ;) --->Dawn

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 2:41pm
When I read your first paragraph I wanted to shout with glee! You are sooooo correct, m'lady.

Hollie

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 2:42pm
After reading some of the other replies to this thread, I would like to add that, though many unfortunately do, not all SAHM *or* WOHM who have mental illnesses would ever harm their children. There seems to be a preconceived notion, (mainly because of the media who report these horrific crimes) that if you are mentally ill in *any* way, you should not be trusted to care for your children. I have had many bad episodes during my bout with depression, and yes, I have become very frustrated with my children (which is more a "comes with parenting" thing than a depression thing). But I have never, ever thought of harming them, and I never would. I think the stigma attatched to menatl illness is a lot of what keeps some mothers, especailly SAHM's, from finding the help they need. There is a stigma attatched that says, "If I admit I have a mental illness, I will be considered a danger to my children." That is why we all need to learn more about mental illness, and the vast array of causes, symptoms, and treaments of it. ---D>awn
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 2:51pm
Well, since *none* of us are perfectly mentally balanced, I totally agree with you.

As Jimmy Buffet says "If we weren't all crazy, we would go insane."

Hollie

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 5:14pm
I swear I was going to say something like this. I have seen references to SAHM being more depressed than their WOHM couter-parts but never any real research and I have wondered the same thing - is one depressed because they SAH or does one SAH because they are depressed?

A while ago there was some news showing the some astronomically high number of regular internet users suffered from depression and people tried to draw the false conclusion that being in front of the computer made one depressed

SUS

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-24-2003
Fri, 08-15-2003 - 7:56pm
Suzymomm: I really don't see women who don't have careers, being persecuted in our society. Who is telling you that you don't really "count"? Who says this?

There are lots of stories about not just moms, but dads who abuse/murder their own children. I'm sure there are lots of reasons why it happens. But I don't view these parents as "victims". I don't think anyone forces someone to get married, and have children. Do they?

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