A Mother’s support is key during mental illness


According to an article over at Scientific Daily, what Mom thinks of her child’s mental illness matters when it comes to that child’s self-esteem. The study, carried out by a sociologist at Northern Illinois University, found that more than any other family member, what a Mother felt and communicated in regard to her child’s mental illness (in this study it was specifically schizophrenia), carried the most weight with said child, especially when these views were negative.

What researchers also found was that the greater exhibited levels of initial symptoms and therefore lower self-esteem in relation to symptoms, the more likely the mother was to reinforce popular yet stigmatizing beliefs about the child in relation to his/her mental illness.

Despite the small size of the study (only 129 mothers of adult schizophrenics were followed over an 18-month period), I find this study interesting from a Postpartum Mood Disorder perspective. All too often, I hear about women struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder who have chosen not to share their diagnosis with their mothers specifically. Or have shared their diagnosis with their mothers only to be told to “snap out of it” or that “it will pass.”

Family is often our first line of support and defense when it comes to any illness. But when it comes to mental illness, for many, family is the last line of defense because we fear stigmatization and exile from those we love the most. This study also reminds me of another study which concluded after fMRI’s of both depressed and non-depressed women that  a Mother’s criticism caused distinct neural reaction in formerly depressed women.

Is all of this related to the intricate female to female  relationship? Do we really care so much about what another woman, especially our own mother, thinks about us that we are willing to allow it to so definitively shape our own self-view? I realize we grow up wishing to please our parents but why is it what our Mother thinks of us that tends to matter most?

As women, should we not always strive to be the best for ourselves, not caring what any other woman thinks of us, not even our own Mother? How do we break out of that mold? How do we grow past attacking each other, past the guilt of having let another woman down? How do we learn to live for ourselves in a society which preaches competition and rewards those who achieve so much on a daily basis?

When the Mom wars begin to affect how the mentally ill view themselves, it’s gone too far. When the Mom wars delay other mothers from healing and finding the support they so desperately need, it’s gone too far.

A mother is where you go when you need a hug. A mother is where you go when your soul needs to be soothed. A mother is peace. A mother is love. A mother is not harmful. A mother is not hateful. A mother is not a source of shame about oneself. A mother is home.

When a mother ceases to be love, solace, compassion, and peace, we have made a wrong turn. Even mothers who are struggling with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety disorders are all of these things—they are simply unable to elicit the reaction within themselves without a bit of help and healing.

When a Mother, who, for no other reason, sees her child as stigmatizing and reinforces low self-esteem in her child simply because of that child’s mental illness? We as a society should be ashamed.

If you’ve struggled with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, I would love for you to leave a comment about whether or not you shared your diagnosis with your mother—if you did or did not, why? What was the reaction?

Let’s get to Just Talking.

Heartbreaking News out of Houston, TX


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?

Why?

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!