I debated about whether or not I should blog about this topic. It’s graphic, it’s disturbing, and it’s deeply saddened me. I finally made the decision to blog about it to clear up a certain point I’ve found in most of the news stories.
Unless you’ve been on a news blackout or under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the tragedy which occurred in TX this past weekend. I will not be delving into the details here. They are quite graphic and disturbing. I had a hard time reading the news story. I do not wish to trigger any suffering women who regularly read or subscribe to this blog. If you have a stronger stomach and do not feel you would be triggered by the details, you can read the story here.
The news story states the mother was mentally ill, having been previously diagnosed with schizophrenia.(Dad also had been diagnosed with schizophrenia)
Once again though, Postpartum Depression is mentioned in the story. Postpartum Depression is being bandied about as a possible cause of her behaviour.
I’d really like to make something perfectly clear.
Women with Postpartum DEPRESSION do NOT murder their children.
Let me say that again.
WOMEN WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION DO NOT MURDER THEIR CHILDREN!!!!!!!
However, women with Postpartum PSYCHOSIS are much more likely to follow through with these horrific thoughts.
Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency. The onset is fast and furious and this particular Postpartum Disorder carries the highest risk of suicide, infanticide, and filicide of ALL the Disorders on the spectrum.Women with Postpartum Psychotic symptoms should absolutely not be left alone with their infants.
According to MedEd PPD, Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis are:
- Risk of harm to self (suicidality)
- Risk of harm to others (homicidality)
- Inability to provide basic care for self (usually due to psychosis). Psychosis is associated with both suicidality and homicidal ideation toward the infant or others.
Mothers with Psychosis may also show signs of delusional thinking, hear voices, or experience hallucinations.
And what should family members do if they suspect a new mother may be exhibiting signs of Psychosis?
Most importantly, the mother should NOT be left alone with her infant. She should be immediately transported to the ER for professional assessment and treatment. In the above article, it is stated that the mother’s family noticed her decline in mental status just a week prior to her crime. She was hospitalized but signed herself out.
Risk Factors for developing Psychosis include (but are not limited to) family or personal history of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. In this particular case, the mother had been previously diagnosed and hospitalized for Schizophrenia.
How often does Postpartum Psychosis occur? One per 1000 mothers may experience Psychosis.
If you want to truly understand Postpartum Psychosis, go read my interview with Teresa Twomey, author of Understanding Postpartum Psychosis. Both she and her daughter fortunately survived Postpartum Psychosis. With the publication of her book, she hoped to help remove stigma from this condition which is so very often sensationalized in mainstream media and made to seem more common than it really is.
How many more of these cases do we need to read about? How many more times do we have to confuse Postpartum Depression with Postpartum Psychosis in mainstream media? How many more times do we have to mourn the loss of another infant because a mother was left behind by an uneducated system which failed her? How many more times are we to read about a family destroyed by something which could have been prevented if swift action had been taken?
Why weren’t preventative measures already in place given the mom’s mental health history? Why was this tragedy allowed to occur? And why are moms in TX murdering their infants at such a high rate?
When will we wake up and realize that we need to reduce stigma, increase awareness, educate, research, and inform medical professionals in ALL fields about the dangers of Postpartum Psychosis? Educate them about the differences between Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Disorder – WHEN?!?!
THE MOTHER’S ACT needs to be passed NOW! Families cannot wait any longer for relief!
I don’t know that I’d say women with PPD don’t kill their children but women with psychosis do, as you noted above. Many women with psychosis DON’T harm anyone. They are treated and everything turns out just fine. It’s just that there is a 10% infanticide risk for women with postpartum psychosis, which is a percentage high enough that out of an abundance of precaution all women with postpartum psychosis should be well cared for and carefully monitored.