I experienced both a postpartum mood disorder (postpartum psychosis) and a perinatal psychiatric issue (a manic episode which led to psychosis) very early on in my second pregnancy. I had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder two years before my husband and I decided to start a family, and yet I found limited support and information in my quest to have as healthy a pregnancy and postpartum experience as I could. When I think back to that time in my life, I strongly believe that if I had received better screening - particularly after my first pregnancy - much of the trauma and heartache of what I went through could have been avoided.
Before I experienced mental illness on a personal level, my ignorance of the various forms of psychiatric conditions caused me to judge people whose stories were covered in the media. I remember watching news coverage of the Andrea Yates trial thinking HOW COULD THAT HAPPEN? And then it happened to me seven years later. Thank God my outcome was drastically different.
Just this week a pregnant mother and her three children were rescued in Daytona Beach, after she drove the family minivan into the ocean. A family member had called police hours earlier to express concern over her strange behavior, including talk of demons. On the 911 tapes, you can hear the sister request a well-being check because "she's like having psychosis or something."
This woman literally saved her sister's life, the lives of those three children and the life of her sister's unborn baby with that call for help.
They were lucky to have avoided an outcome similar to that of the Andrea Yates case. Simply because someone close to the person who was suffering took action.
Now it's our turn to take action. There is an urgent need for changes in the way we screen women during pregnancy and postpartum in order to stop incidents like these from ever occurring in the first place.
Maybe this woman's sister recognized what her family member was going through because of the increase of more open dialogue about women's mental health issues. I can feel the wave of mental health awareness gaining momentum and hope that very soon there will be less ignorance out there and more acceptance. Because together we can make a difference.
Which is why I support this important White House petition to create mandatory universal mental health screening for pregnant and postpartum women. Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of death for women during the first year after childbirth? Or that 1 in 7 women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or postpartum, yet nearly 50% remain untreated?
We need change. We need to screen every mother, every time to prevent and treat perinatal mental illness.
Recovery is possible - I am a perfect example of this. But wouldn't it be incredible if in the future we could catch cases like mine before they escalate? Before they lead to suffering and even death? No woman should have to suffer in silence because she's afraid to admit what she's thinking or feeling. We need to provide her with the chance to find recovery early. We need to recognize the signs and symptoms and take action.
Please take a moment to sign the petition: Every Mother, Every Time. Creating a WhiteHouse.gov account takes only a minute and there are simple tools to share the petition on Facebook and Twitter once you have submitted your signature.
This movement will save lives. We need 100,000 signatures to get the attention of the Obama Administration. Let's come together to make our voices heard on this critically important issue.
Every Mother, Every Time.
Tweet about the petition with the hashtag #EMET:
[Tweet "Universal mental health screening 4 every pregnant & postpartum woman http://ow.ly/uho8X. #EMET"]
Thank you for helping to spread the word.