DEPRESSION and SUICIDE CONNECTION
By Sonia Murdock
two months of suffering from severe anxiety attacks, feeling very,
very sad but not really being able to cry and not being able to
talk to anyone, I thought I must be losing my mind. I wanted to
end it all. I thought my husband, new baby and four kids would be
better off without me. I didn't really want to die. I didn't want
to live either if I was going to be like this," shares Laura
Cincotta, volunteer of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.
"I was crying out for help and no one could tell me what I
had or how to treat it. I asked to be put in the hospital. I can
absolutely understand how women can tragically lose their lives
to this horrible but treatable illness. I feel fortunate that I
Disorders is a general term used to describe a wide range of mental
illnesses a woman may experience related to childbearing. It relates
to women who are pregnant, who have had children or have had the
loss of a pregnancy.
During pregnancy 10% of women will experience depression which is
termed Antenatal Depression.
60%-80% of mothers experience the Baby blues. This term refers to
a period of temporary moodiness which usually begins 1-3 days after
delivery. Symptoms may include crying spells, sadness, irritability,
frustration and fatigue. These symptoms usually disappear on their
own in a few days. The Baby blues are not considered postpartum
(PPD) is the most common medical complication related to childbearing.
It is estimated 10% to 15% of women will experience postpartum depression.
Some research has shown even higher amounts of occurrence. Symptoms
of PPD are similar but more persistent than those of the Baby blues
(lasting throughout the day and longer than a 2 week time period).
Symptoms usually develop a few weeks after delivery but can occur
at any time during the first year after childbirth. Symptoms may
include frequent crying, sleep disturbances, appetite disturbances,
anxiety and panic attacks, obsessive compulsive thoughts/behavior,
and suicidal thoughts. The mom may feel inadequate, unable to cope
and feel exhausted. She may feel ashamed about her feelings and
fear what others will think of her. Many women often don't seek
help on their own due to shame, stigma of mental illness, denial
and ignorance of maternal mental health.
(PPP) is a severe but rare disorder (1 or 2 women in a thousand)
that can develop in the postpartum period. The illness is characterized
by a loss of contact with reality for extended periods of time.
Symptoms usually occur during the first few weeks after delivery
and include auditory and/or visual hallucinations, delusions, paranoia,
rapid mood swings, suicidal/infanticidal thoughts or actions. Postpartum
psychosis is a very serious emergency and requires immediate medical
attention. PPP may be the onset of bi-polar disorder.
the Safe Motherhood Initiative, maternal mortality reviews are occurring
with the consideration of the inclusion of researching the number
of mothers lost to postpartum depression and psychosis. It is critical
for society to examine suicide related to maternal mental illness.
We must be educated about the seriousness of postpartum illness
and support mothers during this vulnerable time to prevent tragedies,"
states Jane Honikman, Founding Director, Postpartum Support International.
mother of Melanie Blocker Stokes and PPP advocate shares her insight
about losing her daughter to suicide related to postpartum psychosis.
"I did not have to lose my beautiful daughter Melanie to postpartum
psychosis. No other family should lose a loved one to this illness
and have to suffer what our family has gone through. Mothers are
committing suicide in very violent means, uncharacteristic of women.
My daughter who was easy going and mild mannered jumped to her death.
These women appear to run to their deaths. They can hardly wait
to die. This is what is so frightening about postpartum psychosis
and postpartum depression. Women have jumped in front of trains,
some have hung themselves, stabbed themselves or lit themselves
on fire. We must have standardized treatment plans so postpartum
psychosis is no longer a deadly mental illness."
Congressman Bobby Rush of Chicago has introduced the Melanie Stokes
Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act (HR2380).
"Women and their families going through postpartum depression
need to know they are not alone. Not to blame and that they will
feel better and get well. I know from my experience how they may
feel otherwise. Suicide is not an option. Support is available."
says Sylvia Buehning, postpartum psychosis survivor and Postpartum
Resource Center of New York Advisory Board Member.
Center of New York, Inc. is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
providing emotional support, educational information and support
group and healthcare referrals to New York State women experiencing
postpartum depression. Contact: Postpartum Resource Center of New
York, Inc., 109 Udall Road, West Islip, NY 11795 phone: (631) 422-2255
Sonia Murdock is the Executive Director of Postpartum Resources
of New York, Inc.
Association in New York State, Inc. www.mhanys.org