Bob Gibbs is the father of Jennifer Bankston, the woman for whom the foundation Jenny’s Light has been founded. Jennifer tragically took both her life and her infant’s life as a result of PPD. Her family was unaware of this horrible disease and did not see the warning signs. Bob, his wife Sandy, Jenny’s sister Becky, and numerous family and friends have put their heart and soul into Jenny’s Light to ensure others do not suffer in silence the same tragedy they have experienced. I applaud their efforts and numerous achievements to date. As more families and women speak up about our experience with PPD, the louder our voice becomes – forcing change around us, eroding the stigma, and empowering new mothers faced with these same challenges – giving them the courage to step up and get the help they DESERVE.
What factors surrounding Jenny’s experience led to the development of Jenny’s Light?
I think the main thing was that it seemed so senseless and we wanted to have some good come from it. We wanted to create a lasting legacy for Jenny and Graham.
For me, the more I work with women and their families, helping to educate and aid them in recovery, the stronger I become. Have you found this to be true with your work through Jenny’s Light?
Definitely! Sandy and I feel like this is our therapy. It is so gratifying to know other people appreciate what we’re doing.
What are some of the things Jenny’s Light has already achieved in such a short time?
We have distributed over 20,000 PPD info cards, mostly at Triathlons, had over 25,000 hits on our website representing 73 countries, received hundreds of testimonials from mom’s who saw our site and were moved to seek help, raised over $140,000 in just 9 months, and have formed a partnership with Allina Health Systems and Abbott hospital to develop a universal screening program within their system.
I am absolutely amazed at the level of fundraising already in place for Jenny’s Light. Has the outpouring of support for your organization surprised you as well?
At first we were overwhelmed, but the more responses we saw on our website, the more we realized that this was a problem that needed attention and the people that had been touched by it wanted to help.
What are some signs and symptoms parents and family members should watch for after a woman gives birth that may be indicative of an underlying emotional disorder?
There are many! Frequent crying or tearfulness, loss of interest or pleasure in life, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty, showing little interest in your baby, to mention a few.
As is often mentioned to new mothers, taking time for oneself is important. What do you do to recharge yourself after a long day?
Sandy and I are both bike riders and outdoor nuts. We have a cabin in northern Wisconsin that is definitely our recharge zone.
In your opinion, what should all expectant mothers know about PPD before they give birth?
They should know the symptoms, be aware of the dangers, have a strong support system in place, and know they are not bad mothers if they don’t feel on top of the world.
What should health care providers do to improve their treatment and prevention of PPD?
This is the area where the most work is needed. No specialty really wants to take on more work in dealing with this problem. We are attacking it from the Mental Health angle. There needs to be screening, follow-up, and care provided to these mother if don’t want to see repeats of what happened to Jenny and Graham.
During this time in your life, what has given you strength to go on after losing Jenny and Graham?
Jenny was a very special person. She was loved by so many people, Sandy and I have a hard time comprehending it sometimes. We feel that continuing her legacy of caring is important for us and all the people that she touched.
Last but not least, do you have any advice for other parents who have a new or expectant mother in their lives?
Parents, spouses, friends, all need to know about the signs of PPD’s . One of the most sinister things about PPD is that mothers are often hesitant to ask for help, fearing they will be looked upon as unfit mothers.