“I’m 26 years old. I’m a mom. I don’t need to be afraid of what people are going to think," the actress said.

By Kathleen Felton
January 19, 2016
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At her first red carpet appearance in the U.S. since entering treatment for postpartum depression last fall, Hayden Panettiere spoke to People about what it was like to be in front of the cameras again.

"It feels different for me because of things that I've gone through recently, over the last year," the actress said at the Critics' Choice Awards on Sunday. "I've really gone, 'You know what, I've been in this industry for so long, forget it!' I've been hiding myself. Just putting out the smiling face, showing people this, and allowing that veil to come down—it's like a weight off my shoulders."

Panettiere welcomed daughter Kaya Evdokia with her fiancé Wladimir Klitschko in December 2014. During an interview on Live! With Kelly and Michael in September, the Nashville star opened up about her experience with postpartum depression, which also affected her character on the ABC hit show.

“[It’s] something that I can very much relate to, and it’s something that I know a lot of women experience,” she told the hosts. “When they tell you about postpartum depression, you think about, ‘Okay, I feel negative feelings towards my child, I want to injure my child, I want to hurt my child’—I’ve never ever had those feelings, and some women do... You don’t realize how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on. It’s something I think needs to be talked about, and women need to know they’re not alone, and that it does heal.”

A few weeks after the interview aired, Panettiere released a statement saying she had entered a treatment center for her postpartum depression.

About 13% of women who give birth develop postpartum depression. Although it's often referred to as the "baby blues," it's a serious mood disorder that can strike anyone (yes, even dads). It can occur up to a year after childbirth, but typically begins within one to three weeks. Symptoms include crying for no apparent reason, trouble eating or sleeping, and questioning your abilities as a parent.

On Sunday, Panettiere told People that being back in the public eye for the awards show was easier now "because I don’t feel like I have to hide anymore.”

“The only important thing to me is that I’m not causing myself pain and discomfort anymore, and I can be a strong woman for my daughter to look up to,” she said. “It would horrible for me to be going, ‘You can be whomever you want! You can do whatever you want in life!’ yet I was unable to follow the same words.”

The actress added that the positive response to her statements has been encouraging. “I’m 26 years old. I’m a mom. I don’t need to be afraid of what people are going to think," she said. "I saw how much people rallied behind me when I was honest, and I didn’t know that honesty could be such a gift."