These past couple of weeks have been a blur of work and plans for celebrating a couple of milestones in my life.
A little behind, as I usually don’t blog about such meaningful news relating to maternal mental health a couple weeks after they occur, here I am today, taking a quick break from what I am working on right now to applaud the two-part New York Times focus on maternal mental health, the first of which was titled “Thinking of Ways to Harm Her: New Findings on Timing and Range of Maternal Mental Illness” and appeared on June 15, 2014 on the front page and the second part titled “After Baby, an Unraveling:A Case Study in Maternal Mental Illness” appeared the very next day.
Kudos to Pam Belluck, the reporter who wrote the articles and ensured they received such prime spots in such a major newspaper. Ms. Belluck interviewed three mothers for the first article, and the second article featured the story of Cindy Wachtenheim, who after battling postpartum psychosis, ended her life on March 13, 2013. Both articles mention Postpartum Support International (PSI), the organization I joined back in 2006 in my search for answers and information as I endeavored to write a book about my own experience with postpartum depression (PPD), which began in January 2005 and ended a few months prior to the first PSI conference I attended in June 2006.
A week ago, on June 23, 2014, an article appeared on HuffPost Parents titled “What the New York Times Got Right and Wrong About Maternal Mental Health” in response to the NY Times articles. Very good points made by Christiane Manzella, PhD, FT, supervision director and senior psychologist at the Seleni Institute including how, even though this two-part series in the NY Times was a step in the right direction, it was still a missed opportunity to educate the public on the common misconceptions of postpartum mood disorders. For example, many cases of postpartum mood disorders actually begin during pregnancy (i.e., antenatal or antepartum depression) or up to a year after and is not strictly limited to the first weeks postpartum. Also, the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders covers not only PPD, but postpartum psychosis as well, which is still not being diagnosed/treated correctly in all too many cases today…and unfortunately the disastrous outcome hits the news, like in the case of Cindy Wachtenheim.
I also wanted to highlight the June 21, 2014 Letters to the Editor submitted in reaction to the two-part series on maternal mental health. Note the first letter written by Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center.
Thank you, Pam Belluck and the NY Times for making these articles happen and putting them in the spotlight to bring more awareness about perinatal mood disorders to the public. For too long perinatal mood disorders have been lingering in the shadows, remaining a topic that has evaded the understanding by medical/mental health practitioners and the public alike.
Every mother deserves to understand what perinatal mood disorders are, as well as how to know when to get help and who to go to for help without fear. Fear of stigma. Fear of any potential repercussions. People need to put aside these fears because things can get very bad very quickly if a mother does not seek help in a timely fashion, or gets the wrong diagnosis and/or treatment.
Every mother deserves to receive the right treatment and not be afraid to seek it. As in my case and in all too many other mothers’ cases, time is of the essence in getting the correct treatment. If I had gone much longer with my insomnia and panic attacks without the right combination of medications to treat them, I am not certain what would have happened. I was in a very bad place for a few weeks, and I am ever so grateful for only losing a few weeks of precious time with my baby. The outcome could have been so much worse.