I saw Bill O’Reilly’s segment on postpartumdepression”>postpartum depression last night. I thought Dr. Lusskin held her own with Mr. O’Reilly, thank goodness. Unless I’m misunderstanding him, he doesn’t want to seem to admit that this is a real illness that many women suffer. I get the sense he just thinks it’s an excuse for irresponsible women who can’t or don’t want to take care of their children. His comment "these babies are getting knocked off like crazy" was over the top and quite silly. I do, however, understand why he is concerned that people could misuse an insanity defense. I worry about that as well, which is why we need better research into the causes of these illnesses.
Anyway, I thought I’d share with you the letter I sent to him in response to his segment:
I saw your segment last night on postpartum depression. I can understand your concern over making sure that true criminals don’t misuse mental illness defenses. I share that concern. But let me assure you, this is as real an illness as any other. I am 35 years old, and am the former Director of Experiential Marketing at The Coca-Cola Company. I now run my own marketing consultancy. I tell you this so you’ll know I am a bright, successful young woman. Before the birth of my son, I had never been treated for or experienced any mental illness. Upon his birth, I spiraled into a darkness so horrific I thought I’d never be the same again. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I had uncontrollable thoughts of harming my son. Sir, you have to understand that I am as competent as they come and a fairly accomplished young person. My son is the light of my life, and a terrific kid. I am no less of a mother than all the other great mothers in the world. But the fact of the matter is this: there is no way of knowing who will be hit by a mental illness or when it will strike or even exactly why. I can’t explain to you why I thought of smothering my son with a burp cloth. I had never had such disturbing thoughts in all my life. I understand that, to a person who has never learned how little actual control they have over their brain, it is difficult to imagine having thoughts that you didn’t mean to generate. It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s entirely possible, and happens to thousands of women – women who were expecting the birth of their child to be the most happy, most serene moment in their lives. I felt like a defective human being who would be sent away forever never to see my loved ones again. In fact, all I needed was a competent psychiatrist, some medication and some therapy. I am now perfectly fine, as are the great majority of women who go through this and get the proper treatment. Perhaps if all women were screened for postpartum mood disorder symptoms by their doctors at their six-week postpartum checkup, and if all psychiatrists and obstetricians were properly trained to recognize and treat these illnesses, we could begin to prevent the horrible tragedies that occur when new mothers take their lives or the lives of their children. If we had the money and attention needed for research on this issue, we wouldn’t be left to sit and wonder what went wrong, or whether the person truly suffered from a postpartum mood disorder, when a horrible crime occurs. For some reason, Congress has sat on a bill for such research (the Melanie Blocker-Stokes Act) for years – how hard is it to realize that children deserve healthy mothers, and thus this bill should pass? I find it frustrating that the media never gives voice to the importance of actually addressing this problem, but instead only to the terrible details of what continues to happen because leaders don’t care enough to do something about it.