The First Center of its Kind in New Jersey

As I mentioned a few days ago, I took the day off because  I needed to witness the grand opening of the very first center of its kind in my home state: The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Center at Monmouth Medical Center.

 

 

 

 

 

After paying this center a visit personally and hearing about the immensely positive impact it has had the past 6 years since Lisa Tremayne first endeavored to provide a place for mothers suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) to go to for help, I am just so, so amazed and have such tremendous respect for Lisa and for the staff.

 

 

 

 

There were many mothers/babies there that were there to celebrate with Lisa and the amazing staff.

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Graebe, MD (Chairman of the OB/GYN Dept) kicked off the ceremony.

 

 

 

 

 

Followed by Mary Jo Codey who recounted her personal experience with PPD so long ago.  I’ve heard her speak what must be a dozen times by now, but hearing her wrenching experience from when she suffered from severe PPD in the 1980s and a second time in the 1990s always serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come and yet how much further we still need to go when it comes to helping new mothers realize when and how to get help, helping doctors correctly diagnose and treat PPD.  She wrapped up her speech with a statement about how grateful she is for the existence of this center and how we need to make sure more centers like this open up in New Jersey.  Click here  and here for articles posted earlier today that include pictures and video clips.

After the former First Lady’s speech came Lisa Tremayne who gave a brief history of the center and how it has been helping mothers since 2011 and then introduced PPD survivors Meg Santonacita, Luciana Mangyik, and Carolyn Stack, each of whom shared their experiences and how the center helped each of them to recover.

 

 

 

 

 

After the speeches came the ribbon cutting ceremony!

The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Center at Monmouth Medical Center – Grand Opening on May 4, 2017

Announcing the Grand Opening of The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Center at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC)!  This is such an exciting development for New Jersey that I’m taking the day off from work to attend this grand opening to meet the program’s multi-disciplinary team of experts and clinicians certified by Postpartum Support International.

When:  Thursday, May 4 at 1:00 p.m. (ribbon cutting starts then)
Where:  Maysie Stroock Pavilion (Pavilion & Second Avenue, Long Branch)
RSVP:  Email teamlink@rwjbh.org or call 888.724.7123
Agenda:  Speakers will include Mary Jo Codey (former NJ First Lady who will share her personal experience with postpartum depression (PPD), Lisa Tremayne, Robert Graebe, MD (Chairman of the OB/GYN Dept), and several PPD survivors who are former patients of the center.

Thank you to Lisa Tremayne, RN, CPPD, CBC, CCE — maternal child health nurse at MMC — for graciously providing the details of how New Jersey’s VERY FIRST perinatal mood and anxiety center of its kind has evolved under her persistent efforts.

After the birth of her triplets (after 6 years of not being able to conceive naturally and one round of IVF) in 1998, Lisa suffered from what she later learned was postpartum anxiety/postpartum OCD, which greatly affected her life as a new mom.  She experienced racing thoughts and living in a constant state of anxiety.  She never received help, no one ever questioned if she was okay, and it took years for her to fully recover.

It wasn’t until 2007 when she was at a mandated lunch and learn with the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium that she learned she had what they referred to as postpartum depression (PPD).  Not telling anyone about her experience, she started volunteering for the consortium, and helped patients find resources and help. In 2011 she became the MMC Childbirth Education Manager. As facilitator for a new moms support group she quickly realized many mothers were suffering from PPD.  She then received permission to start a PPD support group, which was instantly well received and attended by large numbers of mothers.  It was at that point she broke her silence and shared her experience with others. She presented her plan to start a PPD program to new business development, but it wasn’t until April 2015 that the plan was accepted and the program was started with the support of the chairperson of OB.  The program consisted of Lisa, a therapist and a psychiatric nurse practitioner on a part-time basis. Since then, the program has grown.  It is now a mother/baby program in which babies are not only allowed but encouraged to attend with their mothers so the staff can assess mother/baby attachment at all times.  Many classes/workshops are designed specifically for the mother/baby.

Lisa and the other dedicated members of the program are excited about the grand opening that is finally going to take place on May 4th!  To date there have been intakes of over 800 women, and 500 women have received medical evaluation, treatment and referrals to appropriate services through the program.  On average, there are 30 new patients a month.  Lisa hopes the program will evolve into a partial day stay program by 2018.  The program is interdisciplinary and every member is completely passionate about helping moms/babies, normalizing this temporary and treatable illness and educating the public that this is the #1 complication of childbirth.

Senator Menendez Press Conference, Ridgewood, NJ Celebrating Mothers Act Passage – May 10, 2010

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) held a press conference today, Monday, May 10th at the Women’s Club of Ridgewood in Ridgewood, New Jersey.  The Senator stood with advocates Brooke Shields, Mary Jo Codey, Susan Stone and Sylvia Lasalandra to celebrate passage of the MOTHERS Act as part of Health Insurance Reform.    Passage of the MOTHERS Act will ensure establishment of public awareness campaigns and additional research and support services so desperately needed for moms who will at some point suffer from the debilitating and unnecessary suffering caused by postpartum depression (PPD).

All PPD advocates and many, many survivors are thrilled about the passage of this legislation that will make a HUGE difference for new moms who will at some point–with an occurrence rate of 1 out of 8 (or 15%) of all new moms–suffer from postpartum depression. This is so long overdue, and it it weren’t for Senator Menendez’ persistence in supporting this legislation all these years, this wouldn’t be possible….at least not for a very, very long time.  I wish this had passed before my own scary experience with PPD.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have suffered the way I did.  Only those who have suffered from PPD firsthand and/or those who have seen others they love suffer from PPD can truly appreciate why this is considered such a crucial development on the part of mothers.  With a national awareness campaign, hopefully there will be much less suffering, less incorrect diagnoses, less brushing off by doctors (and other well-meaning, but ignorant individuals) that “Oh, this is just the blues…all mothers experience some amount of emotional ups & downs after childbirth, anxiety and sleep deprivation.”  From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Senator Menendez!  This is truly a wonderful Mother’s Day gift!

Okay, here’s where I digress, and I apologize…but I have to get this off my chest.  If you don’t want to be bothered with my complaining, feel free to skip!

Today, I learned a valuable experience.  Stay focused.  Be proactive.  Don’t just sit back and expect things to happen on their own.  As with life in general, if you do that, you’ll get nowhere fast.  You’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with the press conference.  Well, I’ve been annoyed the majority of the day over my experience there.   You see, the invite to attend this press conference was extended to me, and I was encouraged by a couple of individuals to bring my daughter along because they were planning for moms and their children to join Senator Menendez and advocates on stage.  I took my daughter out of school for this and had to pick up my mother on the way, just in case I needed her to help me watch/distract my daughter.   We were one of the first ones to arrive.  After the Senator arrived, things happened really fast.  No one came up to me to make sure I got rounded up with the other moms.  All of a sudden, all the other moms were all up on the stage and the Senator was speaking.  It was too late for me to join the group on stage.  On top of everything, I tried to speak to members of the press (I thought that had been pre-arranged too) but they only wanted Bergen folks or told me they already had their quota.  I don’t want to overthink things, but let me put it this way….if you were one of only 2 mothers in the audience with their child with them who wasn’t on the stage and a photographer goes up to the other mother (who was across the aisle from me) and asks her for her name but completely ignores me….wouldn’t it be normal to wonder “Hey, am I invisible here?  Am I chopped liver?”  Gee whiz.   That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  It’s like one, two, three strikes I’mmmmm out.  This whole experience annoyed me to no end, which is unfortunate because I went there to celebrate.  I hate to say it but I really felt excluded….but what else is new?    I brought my daughter there for a reason–and mind you, it’s NOT easy keeping an antsy 5 year old from jumping up and around, squirming and complaining to leave from the moment the press conference began–and it all turned out to be for naught.  Arggggghhhhhh!!!!!!

So, I learned a valuable lesson today from my experience at this press conference.  I am relatively new at all this, so there is much to be learned.  And I always appreciate learning experiences.   If I ever get invited to one of these things again, I definitely need to be even more alert and organized!

Brooke Shields slipped out the side door immediately after the conclusion of the press conference, so no one had the opportunity to speak with her.  Shucks!    I did manage, however, to get some photos with former NJ Governer (2004-2006) and Senate President Richard Codey (2002-2010), the lovely and inspiring Susan Dowd Stone, and Senator Menendez.

Blogging is to help get my thoughts/emotions out, and is therapeutic…….I feel a little weight shift off my shoulders already!  Whew!   I’m also, as always, sharing my experiences with you and why I, along with my fellow PPD advocates, am so excited.  And as well we should be!!!  🙂

Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields

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Me, Richard Codey

My daughter, Me, Susan Stone

My daughter, Me, Susan Stone

Me, Senator Menendez

Me, Senator Menendez

Senator Menendez Press Conference on The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act – May 11, 2009

Me, Senator Menendez

Yesterday morning, I was invited to attend a press conference at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ, with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Former New Jersey First Lady Mary Jo Codey, Audrey Meyers, President of Valley Hospital, Dr. Fred Rezvani, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Sylvia Lasalandra, author of A Daughter’s Touch, and Susan Dowd Stone, Chair of the President’s Advisory Council for Postpartum Support International.

The press conference was held to discuss how passage of the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act (S324) would benefit thousands of mothers in this country each year through an increase in public awareness, education and support services, as well as clarify misconceptions about this legislation–for example, the bill does NOT mandate screening; what it will do is increase research to ensure early detection and treatment of perinatal mood disorders.   He indicated his mission to pass the MOTHERS Act was inspired, in part, by Mary Jo Codey’s personal brush with a postpartum mood disorder and her resolve that contributed to the establishment of the New Jersey Postpartum Depression Law that took effect back in April 2006, which includes the Speak Up When You’re Down literature, website, and 24/7 hotline.   Senator Menendez emphasized that postpartum depression is not just a disease that affects the mother…..the whole family is affected.

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Susan Stone, Sylvia Lasalandra, Senator Menendez, Mary Jo Codey, Audrey Meyers, Dr. Fred Rezvani

Mary Jo Codey and Sylvia Lasalandra spoke about their serious and life-changing experiences with postpartum depression.  I’ve heard their stories several times now, but they still succeed in bringing tears to my eyes, as they brought tears to several others in the audience today.  Both of these brave women stated their full support of the legislation that would provide information made available nationally to help educate the public about perinatal mood disorders to hopefully, once and for all, overcome the myths and stigma that have worked to keep mothers from getting help when they need it.  It’s time for mothers to stop suffering in silence.

Dr. Fred Rezvani, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood NJ, started his excellent speech with the history of PPD that begins with the first written account dating back to Hippocrates, the centuries that elapsed before scientists performed any research on perinatal mood disorders in the 1800’s, and the momentum that has picked up over the past few years.   Dr. Resvani provided a slew of statistics that included PPD occurrence in 10-20% of new mothers, but he tended to believe those figures are understated, with 25% being closer to reality because women tend to suffer in silence due to stigma and fear of what would happen if they spoke up.    He mentions how other countries practice social support customs that help the new mother get through the first weeks postpartum–what this country is so lacking and undoubtedly a contributing factor to the high rates of PPD here.   While other countries have paid maternity leaves of several months in duration–not to mention paid paternity leaves–many companies in this country still require the woman to return to work 6 weeks after giving birth, and there is no paid paternity leave.  What our society needs to do is  adapt an attitude that is more supportive of the mother as she transitions into motherhood.  He expressed his heartfelt desire to help mothers but he–along with all the other OB/GYNs, GPs, pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. throughout the country–can only do so much right now with the limited resources available to them to ensure early detection, proper diagnosis and improved treatment options that include alternative treatments.  He is in full support of this bill because it will not only provide opportunities to improve on existing screening methodologies  such as the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale, it will also provide funding/grants for various forms of support services to be provided to mothers by private, not-for-profit  or public entities in the first months postpartum.

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During the press conference, several references were made with respect to how Senator Coburn (R-OK) has been stubbornly opposed to the bill–even despite the fact that he is an OB/GYN– and it should be interesting given how Rachel Roberts, who was just crowned Mrs. Oklahoma International, is a postpartum depression survivor and will continue her postpartum depression awareness mission that she started during her Mrs. Tulsa days.   Please visit her website.

The press conference concluded with Susan Dowd Stone presenting to Senator Menendez the list of national organizations and individuals who have signed the petition in support of the legislation.

For more information, please visit:

It’s not too late to sign the petition in support of this long overdue legislation!  Please click here to sign the online petition and show your support for this critical federal legislation!

Carol Stokes’ Letter in Chicago Sun Times

Carol Stokes, mother of Melanie Blocker Stokes who took her own life eight years ago while suffering from postpartum psychosis, wrote a letter that appeared in the Chicago Sun Times on Monday, March 30th.   In it, she asks the question as to why legislators in the state of Illinois are so willing to turn a blind eye to mothers that suffer from postpartum mood disorders.  New Jersey passed its law in 2006 (one year after my own PPD experience) requiring healthcare providers to screen new mothers and provide information about postpartum mood disorders so they can recognize symptoms and know the risk factors.   In her letter, Carol asks what legislators in Illinois (and other states for that matter) have against passing a law  for healthcare providers to screen mothers for these disorders.   What do they have against educating the public?  Why do they want to see mothers continue to suffer, sometimes tragically, from these very real and very serious illnesses?

Knowing that legislators are standing in the way of such critical improvements to the treatment and understanding of very real illnesses such as PPD, postpartum psychosis and postpartum OCD should anger every woman in this country into action and sign the petition to urge legislators to once and for all pass the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act.  The bill requests funding for education, research, public awareness campaigns and programs supportive to mothers struggling with these disorders. It requests research into the potential benefits of screening.

An excerpt from Susan Dowd Stone’s blog (because I couldn’t say it any better):

“After 8 long years of a tireless battle that has yet to become federal law, Carol is angry. Hundreds of thousands of women and their families join her in the disbelief that our nation has not yet been moved to action. Our nation and most states are still without mandated strategies to combat these common illnesses. When one considers that some countries have recognized the devastation of these disorders legally since 1922 (England), how did the world’s most powerful and wealthy country allow these lethal disorders to stay under the radar for decades? Only New Jersey currently has a state law in place, thanks to the efforts of PPD survivor, advocate and Former NJ First Lady Mary Jo Codey.

The statistics are there and they are frightening. Up to 20% of mothers will experience a diagnosable pregnancy related mood disorder…that translates into 800,000 women this year if you use national stats on live births. But if you take the condition of pregnancy as the initiating vulnerability to these disorders, then it may be that the thousands of mothers who miscarry or whose babies are stillborn are also susceptible to these disorders.

For the mother, the effects of untreated postpartum mood disorders range from chronic disability to death. For the child, behavioral and learning disabilities can result when mothers cannot bond effectively with their infant.”

What can you do to help stop this ignorance and ludicrousness from continuing on for yet another year?  Show your support of the Melanie Blocker Stockes MOTHERS Act by doing the following:

1.   Sign the online petition (scroll down and enter your zip code in the bottom right of the screen), and

2.  Add your name to the list of those in your state who support the legislation