How Hayden Panettiere seeking treatment for postpartum depression can reduce stigma and help other families

When Claire Kerr-Zlobin heard that actress Hayden Panettiere was taking time off to seek treatment for postpartum depression she knew her courage would help others.

“The fact that she is actually seeking help and seeking help publicly, that’s huge, ” Kerr-Zlobin told Global News. “You know she’s getting help as it’s happening and that’s huge for other moms. That is the most important thing that you can do is get help when it’s happening,” Kerr-Zlobin said.

Many women suffer in isolation, fearing the stigma of postpartum depression. In Canada, it’s estimated that more than 75,000 mothers will suffer this year alone.

READ MORE: Hayden Panettiere enters treatment for postpartum depression

In 2008 Kerr-Zlobin was at home with a newborn, isolated in a new city far from friends and family. First she felt loneliness and anxiety and then the depression set-in.

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She said when her husband would come home from work, “the baby would be crying and I would be crying because I was really sad in my loneliness,” said Kerr-Zlobin.

She decided to help herself and help others in the process. Kerr-Zlobin started the not-for-profit, Life with a Baby (LWAB) – a peer support system where women help women. It currently has 43,000 members across the country. Life with a Baby focuses heavily on prevention.

Hayden Panettiere and her fiancé, professional boxer Wladimir Klitschko, welcomed their daughter Kaya Evodokia 10 months ago.

Panettiere stars as Juliette Barnes on the television series, Nashville. Her character is currently suffering from postpartum depression. During an appearance on Live! With Kelly & Michael on September 28, Panettiere spoke about how she can relate to her character’s struggles.

“I can very much relate to and something that I know a lot of women experience,” said Panettiere. “Which is, you know, when they tell you about postpartum depression, you think ‘okay, I feel negative feelings towards my child, I wanna injure my child, I wanna hurt my child’ I’ve never ever had those feelings. And some women do. But you don’t realize what broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on. And it’s something that I think needs to be talked about and women need to know that they’re not alone and that it does, you know, heal,” Panettiere said.

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She also said women feel shame and are misunderstood.

“Well there’s a lot of misunderstanding,” said Panettiere. “I feel like there’s a lot of people out there who think that it’s not real, that it’s not true, that it’s something that’s made up in their minds, and oh, it’s hormones and they kind of brush it off. And it’s not true it’s something that’s completely uncontrollable. And it’s really painful and it’s really scary and you know women need a lot of support.”

Women have been sharing their own stories and responding on social media to Panettiere’s choice to seek treatment.

READ MORE: Daddy blues: men can suffer from postpartum depression too

Isolation is a significant factor in postpartum depression and having a high profile star admit she is suffering “will break down some of the stigma,” Kerr-Zlobin told Global News. “Knowing someone who, you know has it all, has the dream life… has help and has resources, it still happens to them, it breaks down the stigma because then you realize that it can happen to anyone,” said Kerr-Zlobin. “It’s not your fault.”

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