[vc_row 0=””][vc_column][vc_column_text 0=””]***TRIGGER WARNING***
“Missouri mom believed to have killed husband, baby, herself; postpartum depression eyed” This headline and accompanying article filled my news feed this week, and it probably did yours as well. Or perhaps you saw the articles that replaced the word “depression” with “psychosis.” I saw those as well.
When I saw this story, I quickly reached out to the women of the Bloom Foundation. These are the women in the thick of it, deep in the trenches. They are clinicians and support group leaders, they are survivors and advocates, and they are the women who everyday work with new moms struggling with postpartum anxiety and depression. I needed to hear what they had to say.
“This is heartbreaking on every level. My prayers are with the family and friends of the Trokey’s. I am saddened, but I am also frustrated. There is such an enormous amount of power in the words we use every day and a responsibility that comes with the terms we attach to illnesses. Depression and psychosis are very different conditions, and the tendency to use them interchangeably when pairing them with “postpartum” frustrates and scares me. We wage a daily battle to erase the stigma associated with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders so women no longer have to suffer in silence. When terms are misused or used ignorantly, in order to sensationalize a story, I fear the effects. I fear for every new mom suffering from postpartum anxiety who today will decide to not speak up, to not seek help. I fear for every mom next week who Googles postpartum depression and is presented with Jessica Porten’s story and what she encountered when she did speak up. I fear for every mom next month who will find the strength to make that first call finally asking for help, and then the second, and third, and then finding nowhere to go. These are not bad moms. They have a real illness, and it is treatable and with help they will get better. Yes, there are moms who experience psychosis, and yes, tragedies happen. I feel it is the biggest part of our job to be the voice of the women silenced by the stigma, the shame, and the secrecy. To educate the public, the providers, the families about the realities of postpartum anxiety and depression. It is treatable, it is temporary, and it affects 1 in 5 new moms. We must erase the shame.”
“As soon as I heard there had been another maternal mental health tragedy, my heart sank as my tears welled up. These stories shake me to my core. But this time, for the most brief of moments, I realized with satisfaction that the article I saw labeled what happened as a potential case of postpartum psychosis. Bravo to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, I thought fleetingly. Because when the media reports that this tragedy happens because of a battle with postpartum depression, and not the more accurate psychosis, they spread misinformation that keeps women who DO suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety from coming forward to seek treatment. They suffer in silence because they think, “we’ll, I’m not that bad.” “I don’t want anyone to think I’d do THAT.” What people need to know is, there is a spectrum to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD. The symptoms and severities can appear differently in each person, but all are temporary and treatable, if we know what to look for, are open and honest about our feelings, and seek the help that we need to get better. Yes, postpartum psychosis is on the far end of that spectrum. But it is not postpartum depression.”
We don’t know Mary Jo Trokey’s suffering. We do know that postpartum psychosis only affects 1 to 2 in 1000 out of every 1,000 deliveries, or approximately .1-.2% of births and .00005% suicides and/or infanticides. We have a responsibility to use our words wisely, with thought, compassion, and a real understanding of their impact and meaning on others.
The Bloom Foundation sends its deepest condolences to the extended Trokey family. Our hearts ache for their loss, one that we feel so acutely. We are committed to doing the work and informing and educating pregnant women and new mothers about the signs, symptoms and risk factors for PMADs. We are committed to reducing the shame and stigma associated with these illnesses, the most common complication of childbirth.