August 9, 2014
Why do tragedies continue to happen when postpartum psychosis is a preventable and treatable illness that can strike any mother after the birth of a baby? It has been over 18 years since the onset of postpartum psychosis occurred in my own life and we still have not properly addressed the illness. This is one of the reasons why I wrote the recently published book, A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness.
When I was struck with postpartum psychosis at 8 weeks after my baby was born, my family and I had no idea that the illness existed let alone what the symptoms and risks were. My son was 4 years old when I learned more about postpartum psychosis. It was then that I became motivated to increase awareness, treatment and prevention of mental illness related to childbearing.
Back in 1996, the internet and technology were not what they are today. The resources were not available as they are today. In order to forgive and move on, I had to contribute the way I was treated by the medical and professional community to ignorance. But that is not a legitimate reason today.
What are the reasons that tragedies surrounding postpartum psychosis continue? Why are moms still dying by suicide when with the proper care and treatment they can get better? Why does the media sensationalize the tragedies and rarely address the solution to preventing the tragedies? I wish I had all the answers to these questions but I do not. What I do have is my opinion on what can be done to prevent further tragedies.
- Prenatal education and screening for prevention and early detection
- Properly trained and experienced professionals in the area of perinatal mental health
- Community-wide resource networks for prevention, early intervention and proper treatment
- Medical evaluation, counseling, appropriate medication and support must all be addressed in treatment
This all seems easy enough to accomplish so why are we still so far behind? Is maternal mental health not a priority in the United States? Maybe not but the good news is that there are many, many of us out there doing what we can to prevent these tragedies and work towards achieving what is recommended above. If we all do our part, even if it is as simple as asking a mom how she is doing and not just focusing on how the baby is doing, more progress can be made. Support and education are critical in prevention.
Every mom holds a critical role in the family and the community. Let’s take a stand for them and start addressing their mental health needs.
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