Grey’s Anatomy is known for plucking stories straight from the news. Last night’s episode featured a mother who seemingly deliberately injured her children. Some of the dialogue involved medical professionals shaming perinatal mood disorders that affect real women. Moms are taking to social media to ask Shonda Rhimes why she had beloved characters mock mental health issues that affect millions of mothers.
Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress and relentless advocate for women’s mental health care, posted a call to action on Facebook in response to the episode:
PLEASE JOIN ME TODAY in letting Shonda Rhimes, producer of Grey’s Anatomy, know that we don’t accept this kind of stigmatizing of mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Please tweet the following:
.@shondarhimes We stand against stigmatizing mothers with maternal mental illness. It’s NOT OK. #ShameOnShonda
“The script may have been subtly trying to say something positive,” Stone told SheKnows, “although it’s pretty hard to hear anything after you hear the phrase ‘crazy moms.’ My job is to represent the voice of moms out there who have no education on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. They can’t be expected to get the subtleties. They hear ‘crazy mom who drowns her kids’ and they go crawl under a rock and hide.”
Women have taken to Twitter to share Stone’s sentiments.
— Two Fault Tolerant (@TFTParenting) January 30, 2015
— kate (@guavalicious) January 30, 2015
— Melinda Hamby (@MelindaHamby) January 30, 2015
But not everyone shares Stone’s perspective. The #ShameonShonda tag isn’t a unanimous protest against Rhimes’ portrayal of PPD. “I saw it highlighting a character’s ignorance-and thus highlighting society’s ignorance re maternal mental illness,” writes A’Driane Nieves. “Shonda has tackled many issues like this in a similar manner, as have other shows and I’ve seen the others do it way worse.” Many of those who feel that the #ShameOnShonda hashtag is missing the mark feel that within the context of the episode, the attitudes about maternal mental health were not meant to shame or stigmatize moms.
The word shame is powerful and fraught, and many critics have responded that it wasn’t an appropriate way to approach a successful black woman regardless of the criticism. A debate regarding race and privilege has flared up on the hashtag, and undoubtably warrants a greater conversation.
— Erika Nicole Kendall (@bgg2wl) January 30, 2015
It’s clear that women are eager to discuss maternal mental health and how it’s portrayed in the media. Mental health is a topic that warrants sensitivity, but it shouldn’t be off limits. It’s a conversation that needs to be had, again and again, until mothers are supported and aware and have access to appropriate care. Although this hashtag may spawn a great deal of heated debate, it’s certainly in women’s best interests to keep conversations about mental health alive.
“I don’t look at this as any sort of attack,” says Stone. “I look at it as forcefully standing up and speaking out. I think Shonda Rhimes is a very big girl and won’t take it personally. I’m worried about speaking up forcefully and loudly enough that she actually takes notice. She has so much influence that she could really make a difference in educating people about stigma and about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.”
Update: In response to discussion surrounding the problematic nature of the original hashtag, efforts to reach out to Shonda Rhimes are now using the hashtag #standwithusShonda.