In 2001, a tragic event in a suburb of Houston Texas shook the soul of the nation. A successful nurse, daughter, wife and mother did the unthinkable. In a state of postpartum psychosis, Andrea Yates systematically drowned each of her five innocent children. She emphatically believed that her action was the only way to prevent them from spending eternity in damnation. The State of Texas found her guilty and sentenced her to life in prison.
In 2006, the case was re-tried, at which time Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. And rightfully so. International media attention focused on Yates’ trials offered a tragic opportunity to teach the world about postpartum illnesses.
During my tenure as CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston, we created a fund in memory of the Yates children dedicated to educating new moms and dads about the risks, signs and symptoms of postpartum disorders.
Now, fourteen years later, Mental Health First Aid USA has an opportunity to expand that national dialogue and education. Through a partnership between the National Council for Behavioral Health and Postpartum Progress, new moms can receive training to become Mental Health First Aid instructors, giving them the knowledge and skills they need to spread the word that postpartum illnesses are real, and when recognized, can be treated effectively.
Postpartum education will play an integral role in Mental Health First Aid’s mission of creating healthier communities, as research shows that the health of the mother determines the health of the infant. We look forward to this important collaboration and the work of Postpartum Progress. Together, we can work toward creating stronger, safer communities for all.
-Betsy Schwartz, National Council for Behavioral Health