Washington, DC – Maternal Mental Illness Takes Another Life

Tucson, Arizona (October 4, 2013)– The Tucson Postpartum Depression Coalition (TPDC) is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Miriam Carey in DC this week.  Since 2005, the TPDC has focused its grassroot efforts to educate professionals and families about perinatal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. However,  recent events around the nation have demonstrated in alarming numbers that maternal mental illness can turn deadly despite the best efforts of families and healthcare to avert such outcomes.

Each year, around 4,000 women in Pima County suffer with anxiety and depression around childbirth. Many are not identified or treated, leading to chronic depression for the mother and challenges for the child(ren) as well. The year following the birth of the baby is the most unsettled in a woman’s lifespan; relationships often suffer as can be noted by the high divorce rate during that first postpartum year.  In most cases, women who receive treatment get well.  Perinatal depression and anxiety are treatable, and increasing awareness of the need to educate and identify at risk mothers during pregnancy should lead to better postpartum outcomes over time.  Most women with these conditions will never hurt anyone, but they do need a lot of support to get through a time of high vulnerability.

Mothers who take their own lives or the lives of their children are a vast  minority.  Of the 1 in 1000 women who may be diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, only 5% of those women will become ill enough to kill or harm.  “Because of the ‘waxing and waning’ nature of postpartum psychosis,” says Carole Sheehan, founder of the TPDC, “it is possible that family, friends, and co-workers will only see the mother in her best presentation, and certainly not be able to foresee her lapses from reality.

There are a variety of support programs in Tucson that employ staff with additional training in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The TPDC website offers information about the disorders and what you can do @ www.tucsonpostpartum.com, or call the AZ Warmline: 888-434-6667.

If you are concerned for the safety  of someone you know or love, the Southern AZ Mental Health Center, (520) 622-6000 and local emergency rooms are first responders.