It has happened again. That is to say, it never stopped happening, but something has made us pay attention again.
She has been charged with attempted homicide, among other things, and is being held in custody. Her son is in the hospital recovering.
Of course the internet has exploded. There are calls for her lose her child, for the death penalty to be invoked. She is going to hell. So many people want to adopt this boy away from his terrible mother.
I can understand people who have never dealt with or seen a Maternal Mental Illness saying hateful things like this. The world, no matter what we want to believe, has its fair share of hateful ignorance.
So few people are asking why. I thank God for those who are and I thank God for the people who are trying to answer that question and trying to get this young mother some help.
Let’s just face facts for a moment. 1 in 7 mothers will be affected by a Maternal Mental Illness. 1 in 7. We’re talking about Depression, Anxiety, OCD, and Psychosis. They are four distinct diagnoses (although many women suffer from more than one at a time). Women with D/A/OCD generally are a greater risk to themselves than to their babies. Women with Psychosis are a risk to both.
This woman, this 19 year old mother who is so obviously ill and is being held in custody instead of being given the help that she needs? She can get better. She can get better, she can take care of her child and she can be a wonderful mother. Yeah, I said it. BRING ON THE HATE.
Ask me how I know. I know because I’ve met them. I know mothers who have come back from psychosis. You would never know if you met one. You may be friends with one right now and have no idea.
After my walk through hell with Depression and Anxiety I began to reach out online and in person to support groups. I wanted to know how this happened to me and I wanted to know why NO ONE told me it could happen. Throughout my pregnancy I had been screened for myriad diseases and risk factors. I was never given the Edinburgh Screening, the standard screening tool for MMH disorders. Dork Dad was never warned about what to look for. We were told that I may have “The Baby Blues” and that they usually go away and if they don’t to call the doctor.
There aren’t just cracks in the system, the system is riddled with entire Grand Canyons and there are mothers and babies scattered on the rocks below us all. I hope that image makes you uncomfortable. I hope it bothers you enough to DO something about it.
What can you do? You can talk to any pregnant friend you may have. You can steer them towards information online about what they can really expect after delivery and where they can go if they do get sick and need help. I’ll post those links at the bottom.
You can talk to your OB/Gyn and ask to see the materials they give to pregnant women and their families about Maternal Mental Health. You can ask your doctor if they screen each new mom before AND after birth with the Edinburgh Screening Tool. We know that Psychosis usually presents in the first two weeks postpartum. Are they seeing new moms in that time. If they say no you can ASK THEM WHY NOT.
You can talk to your pediatrician and ask them if they screen new parents at each and every visit in the first year using the Edinburgh Screening Tool. Most new mothers have seen their child’s doctor an average of four times before they see their own for a post birth checkup. You can ask your pediatrician what information and referral tools they have available for new parents. If they don’t have any ASK THEM WHY NOT.
If you are or know an ER doctor you can send them to one of the online resources listed below and make sure they understand the difference between invasive thoughts from OCD and Postpartum Psychosis.
You can host a screening of Dark Side of the Full Moon in your town and invite local healthcare officials, doctors, therapists and survivors.
You can learn the facts. 1 in 7 will suffer. The leading cause of death in the first year postpartum for women is SUICIDE. Women are dying every day. Mothers are dying every day and families are being torn apart. We hear about it when tragedies like this strike. We don’t hear about the mother who killed herself yesterday, or the one who will kill herself today, or the one who will kill herself tomorrow.
You say you can’t imagine doing what this mother did? There are so many things that you can’t imagine.
The doctor who told a friend of mine to shut up about the Zoloft side effects because she could take the medicine or he’d take her baby.
The mother who cut off both of her hands with a table saw so she wouldn’t hurt her child. She didn’t know that intrusive thoughts almost never lead to actual harm. She was on a waiting list to see a therapist.
The mother who went to the ER because she couldn’t stop crying and had her children taken away from her.
The mother who had her husband lock up all of the knives in her house because she was terrified.
Over and over again we hear about mothers who refuse to go near stairs or bridges FOR MONTHS because they can only see themselves throwing their children. This is most usually OCD, not Psychosis and these women are scared to tell anyone because they think they will lose their children.
Women are suffering. Not evil, or weak, or crazy women. These are mothers who only want what is best for their children. Their brains have been hijacked by chemicals that they cannot control alone and they need our help. Their children need our help.
Poor women, unmarried women, women of color and young mothers are all at greater risk. Women with a history of mental illness in their family are at greater risk. Women with a history of miscarriage are at greater risk.
There is a 19 year old girl in jail and a 1 year old baby in the hospital. Instead of jumping online and talking about how horrible she is how about making a commitment to DO SOMETHING right now to make sure this doesn’t happen again? Because I can promise you that there is a mother out there at this very moment who does not see how she can live through today and thinks that the only way to save her baby is to kill herself. We probably won’t ever hear about her. But we have failed her as well.
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