Any time a mother with symptoms of perinatal mood or anxiety disorders is gravely hurt or her child is hurt I’m angry, but not at her.
I’m angry that our system doesn’t recognize how crucial a mother’s mental health during pregnancy and the first year postpartum is to the health of her child. I’m angry that our healthcare providers don’t have enough training and are resistant to screen. I’m frustrated that we don’t have enough psychiatric care providers, and perinatal mental health specialists who have a deep knowledge about medication for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. I’m frustrated when mothers are told they have to keep breastfeeding or they have to stop breastfeeding to get better, neither of which is true. I’m frustrated that anyone and everyone doesn’t rally around each and every mother who has a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum psychosis.
Most of all I’m upset that our lack of a consistent and effective system across the US and around the world of caring for the mental health of mothers can lead to suicide or infanticide. Or, in Miriam Carey’s case, being killed. I know those losses are very rare in the larger scheme of the hundreds of thousands of mothers who struggle each year, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
I don’t blame the police in DC for what happened last week to Miriam Carey. I know some people do, but I don’t. They didn’t know. Their job is to protect the White House and the U.S. Capitol and in today’s environment, with the constant threat of terrorism, how were they to know she was a struggling and confused mother? Everything happened so quickly and they believed their lives and those of others were in danger.
Instead, I want to know how much everyone around her knew about her condition? Was she hiding it, which can happen? Was her doctor fully informed about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders? Did he or she believe Miriam had postpartum depression, or postpartum psychosis, or perhaps bipolar disorder or schizophrenia? Was she properly diagnosed and given an effective treatment, and if so, was she actually taking her medication or had she chosen not to? Did she go to her appointments or was there too little follow up on the doctor’s end? Was she encouraged by those around her to follow through on her medical care, or was she told, as people often are, that she shouldn’t need medication or therapy or help? Was she able to continue her job or did she feel her employment was or might be threatened by being treated for a mental illness?
Everyone around Miriam Carey says she was a smart woman, a good person and a loving mother. I’m sure that’s true. But something happened to her, and by all accounts what happened was related to her mental health, or lack thereof at least for a period of time. I’d like to say I’m a smart woman, a good person and a loving mother, too, and I have needed help for my mental health. So many people do. We need to make sure that everyone can get it and that no one is made to feel like they shouldn’t.
Today, on World Mental Health Day, I think of Andrea Yates and her children. I think of Melanie Blocker Stokes. I think of Jennifer and Graham Gibbs Bankston. Aimee Zeigler. Lisa Gibson. Otty Sanchez. Alisa Lorraine Evans. Shontelle Cavanaugh. So many more that I can’t begin to name them all.
And now, I also think of Miriam.
Today, hundreds of mental health bloggers are dedicating posts to Miriam Carey. If you’d like to join #ForMiriam, go here.
Today is also National Depression Screening Day. Are you wondering whether you might be depressed? Know someone who might be? Find out whether you need help. Help yourself. Help others. Schedule a screening or take one online here.