'Blackish' Just Tackled Postpartum Depression—Here's Why it Matters
Fans of the sitcom Black-ish know Tracee Ellis Ross' character, Bow, to be a strong, successful woman who seems to have it all together—but on the October 10 episode of the sitcom, we learned something about the character: She's suffering from postpartum depression following her fifth child's birth.
The episode shows Bow working through scenes from day-to-day life: She's despondent, prone to spontaneous tears, and can't seem to muster up much energy or enthusiasm for anything. One scene from the episode shows Bow burst into tears during a trip to the grocery. Another features everyone in her family cooing over her youngest child while Bow sits away from everyone else and can only offer up a quiet "Cute" in regards to her son's precious moment.
Bow’s actions may seem like they’re born of intense sleep deprivation or the pressure associated with being a working mother of five—but everyone around her sees something different. Both her husband and her older children discuss Bow’s uncharacteristic behavior, but none of them can seem to pinpoint the problem.
Until Bow’s husband, Dre, realizes what’s going on: Bow has postpartum depression. She denies it at first: “I don’t have postpartum. I am a doctor and I would know,” she says.
But ultimately, Bow confronts the issue…and it’s an incredibly powerful episode that brings the conversation surrounding postpartum depression to a new place.
Black-ish executive producer Corey Nickerson was reportedly inspired by her own experience with postpartum depression. "Doctors didn’t really tell us it was a possibility. I’d heard of it. I didn’t really know what it was. So even when I was going through it, I didn’t really know exactly why I wasn’t right," Nickerson said, according to Variety. “We have this great character, a strong, great mom, a successful doctor. Why don’t we try to show women that it’s OK to be dealing with something like this and still be good moms?”
There is an unfair stigma attached to PPD (and all mental health issues, if we’re being honest). There’s a societal idea that people who suffer them are struggling in every way, that they can’t seem to get their lives together. Bow’s character proves that this is so not the case: The idea that an accomplished doctor isn’t immune to PPD’s effects is both realistic and refreshing.
It’s also worth noting that it appears she didn’t experience any PPD with her first four babies. It just goes to show individual this issue is, and that any woman is susceptible to it, whether she has a history or not.
The episode also confronts the tough decision of whether or not to take medication for the PPD, push-back from a mother-in-law who is skeptical about the disorder, and the way a mom’s PPD struggle can affect her family. All in all, it’s a really powerful episode that was handled with sensitivity, perspective, and some healthy humor. We think it’s worth a watch for anyone who has ever been touched by postpartum depression—or any who wants to better understand this issue so many moms face.