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Media, Motherhood and Mental Health: 2013 World Mental Health Day

Originally posted October 10, 2013.

It’s October 10, 2013 and I’m again honored to be participating in PsychCentral’s World Mental Health Blog Day.

I have a busy mental health practice and an active perinatal mental health blog. I have advanced training in trauma work and people come in to talk about many different types of trauma.

So I felt like I couldn’t let 2013 World Mental Health Day go by without taking pause to acknowledge the tragic incidents in Washington, DC last week. A young mother was tragically killed, first responders did what they are are trained to do, and a man immolated himself.

Not One, But Three, Mental Health Issues

First, I am very sad for the life events leading up to the tragic and death of Miriam Carey. I’m not involved in the case in any way, so I have no way of knowing what her history may or may not be. The media has been commenting on the symptoms of postpartum depression and/or postpartum psychosis in regards to her case. I think the media speculation is in general, inaccurate, premature and sensationalism. Was she prone to depression all her life? No one can say; the professionals who may have treated her are obligated to keep her health records private.

And what drives a man to immolate himself? This type of suicide is incredibly painful; I’ve heard accounts of survivors of this terrifying act. But I don’t see too many people in the press speculating on what his motives were. There was a psychologist on the Today show talking about Miriam Carey. But she wasn’t commenting on the man who burned himself to death.

And no one in the media is talking about empathy to the first responders who are now being judged and hyper-analyzed for their actions? First responders absorb a great deal of trauma for society. Violence and death work is part of the daily work they do for our civilized society. Those of us who are living in an orderly society benefit from having a trained and viable police force. Like in any other field, there are some first responders who take advantage of their position, but for the most part, the first responders I see in my practice are idealistic and want to do good.

So why aren’t these last two subjects being analyzed and over-reported?

Feeding the Mommy Wars

The media over-reports and misrepresents crimes where mothers are involved. I wonder about two things: from whom is the media is getting the diagnosis (healthcare providers are bound by privacy laws, so I’m baffled)? And why this mom was the only one worth reporting about those sad days?

I’d like to see a large media campaign to become more accurate and discerning in their reporting about mental health. It would help to have a balanced article about the emotions of motherhood and mental health, promoting reduction of stigma and reduction of shame, reporting that is ok to seek help. I’d like to see the media frenzy that sadly promotes criticism of women as mothers reduced and eliminated.

The mental health of our mothers and families matter.


Maternal Mental Health Facts

According to Postpartum Support International, the diagnoses of postpartum depression and anxiety are common complication of childbirth, more common than pre-eclampsia. PPD and PPA affects about 20% of all mothers and 50% of those living in poverty.

Postpartum depression and anxiety are real conditions, which are debilitating and have serious emotional effects for mother and her family. But PPD and PPA do not have accompanying delusions and violent behaviors associated with them. They are not postpartum psychosis.

Another diagnosis, postpartum psychosis, is a mental health crisis which often includes delusional thinking & erratic, dangerous behavior. This serious condition only affects 1 – 3 mothers in 1,000. Often, but not always, postpartum psychosis occurs in someone who has a history of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia either in their family or in their personal history.

I have no way to know whether this particular mother was being treated for any of these conditions. I am not her provider. I refuse to speculate.

I do know that there are reams of research supporting the extreme trauma first responders feel when dealing in a shooting incident. And the extreme ostracization and trauma they experience during shooting investigations.

I refuse to participate in polarizing blogging about this incident.

I can tell you first hand that untreated depression physically and mentally hurts.

Treatment is available.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for someone who is thinking of ending his or her life.

Postpartum Support International has a Warmline available for someone who is feeling emotionally depressed and anxious during pregnancy or after childbirth.


And, you can easily access accurate, succinct, and professional consumer information about pregnancy, breastfeeding and psychotropic medications. One valid & reliable website is the website of the Organization of Teratogen Information Specialists. Take a look at this information and have an informed discussion with your doctor. Another good website is Kathleen Kendall-Tackett’s Uppity Science Chick. And Professor Tom Hale’s Medications and Mother’s Milk is now available in an APP on his Infant Risk website.

You are not alone.

Please reach out for support.


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