Saturday, September 13, 2014

Feedback to Time Magazine

As a doctoral-level psychologist and a women personally diagnosed with infertility, your article made me cringe on several accounts and is horrendously offensive to both the infertility and the mental health communities.

Let's begin with the title, specifically the word "crazy." This is not an accurate term used to describe any type of mental illness as recognized by the American Psychological Association or American Psychiatric Association. In reality, this term perpetuates the stigma of mental health that prevents countless numbers of people from seeking and receiving needed treatments. The term is also strongly associated with significant mental health conditions, such as psychosis and dissociative states, which is not what the actual study was focused on.

Additionally, the study did not address the question of "why?" as the title states, but rather looked at a variety factors that may be related to mental illness. The study was strictly correlational, looking at relationships between different variables, and does not, or cannot, claim any causal relationships, including the answer to "why?"

The title is inaccurate and the subtitle, stating that "it's less about the children," depersonalizes the entire experience of infertility. It is as though we could substitute children for promotion and make the same statement, "It's less about the promotion and more about thwarted dreams." No, Belinda, it is all about the children, or lack thereof.

Throughout the article, the language used by the author is insensitive and very reflective of her lack of understanding about the inability to fulfill a basic biological drive that is so interwoven in our society it is inescapable. Women, and men for that manner, do not "let go of the idea of having kids," or "get over that particular life goal." Fertility is not the equivalent of home ownership, getting an advanced degree, or traveling to that one destination on your bucket list. Infertility is a medical disease recognized by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the World Health Organization, among others. As you would not ask someone to "get over" the goal of beating cancer or "let go of the idea" of receiving a heart transplant, it is equally unfair to suggest this from the infertility community. Instead, the appropriate term to use would be acceptance. Mental health professionals can be very helpful in the process of accepting that a disease will not be overcome; accepting that the cancer is terminal, that a transplant is no longer an option, or that a couple will not be able to create a biological child. We do not help patients "get over" these major obstacles, but rather come to terms with the current reality.

There is growing research in the psychology literature, that acceptance is an important factor in mental health functioning across a variety of populations. I believe that this is the underscored outcome from the study, but this message is lost in the sea of inaccurate, insensitive, and stigmatizing wording from the author.

I sent this letter to the Times feedback email. I am not normally one to take a stand, but this article hit too many nerves...


  1. Thank you for sending this. I can't believe that a publication that is supposed to have high standards for their articles has published that article.

  2. Oh my god thank you. Roaring beside you. Will be posting this to my blog.

  3. Amazing response. I didn't see this article, and seeing your incredible rebuttal makes me realize I will actively avoid it because it will make me way too mad. Thank you for taking a stand!

  4. I can't f***ing believe they threw in the word "barren," completely gratuitous too. Am I living in the Bible? Do we not have more specific language for this? Wasn't the point received when they wrote, "...those who had started young and found that the problem was with their reproductive system" but they needed to add, "who in the ancient days might have been called 'barren”??? ROOOAAAAARRRR!

  5. Thank you for your articulate advocacy on behalf of all women who find themselves part of the infertility community. It's not acceptable to talk about infertility the way they did and I'm glad you let them know!