How Hayden Panettiere Is Changing the Perception of Postpartum Depression
When an Us Weekly breaking news alert popped up in my email yesterday, I assumed it was to announce the standard Hollywood fare: an engagement, wedding, pregnancy, birth, or divorce. Instead, it was something I’d never seen before in almost 11 years of following celebrity news, both professionally and personally: an actress, Hayden Panettiere, announcing she was seeking treatment for postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter, Kaya, in December of last year.
A rep for the Nashville star (whose on-screen character also suffers from postpartum depression) said in a statement to Us Weekly that Panettiere is voluntarily seeking professional help at a treatment center. What struck me was the timing of the announcement—that she is battling postpartum depression and seeking treatment for it now. Usually, high-profile women discussing postpartum depression do so in the past tense, having already come out the other side, as Brooke Shields did with her 2006 memoir, Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, or actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox, and Amanda Peet, who have looked back on their experiences with postpartum depression in various interviews.
All of these women are brave for discussing postpartum depression publicly. Each of them may have a role in destigmatizing the illness. But there was something brutally honest and powerful about Panettiere making her struggle known in the present. It’s a raw, eye-opening, and very public moment for postpartum depression, an illness that still lurks in the shadows despite the best efforts of the aforementioned women. The news of a celebrity checking into rehab for substance abuse is commonplace, and it has a normalizing effect: Addiction is an illness and it’s brave to seek help for it. Panettiere is now bringing postpartum depression out of the darkness in the same way.
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