“Crimes of the Century,” directed by Hollywood film director Ridley Scott, is described by CNN in this way:
CNN’s new documentary series turns infamous crimes of the last hundred years inside out, shedding new light on the events, the perpetrators, and their impact on our society.
Among the crimes of the century “documented” by CNN, is a tragedy that has been found as non– criminal on appeal. Andrea Yates is not a criminal. She was not a criminal. Andrea Yates was mentally ill. And as CNN, in all of its corporate caretaking of entertainment-news, parades Andrea across its feed as an infamous perpetrator of crime, I refuse to participate.
America, we have always loved a good witch hunt. Coming from a long line of Quakers and women with mental illness, I know of what I speak. I can still smell the smoke of my ancestors burning—those women who didn’t pass the test of purity, who suffered bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, psychosis, or intuition beyond the bandwidth of the men in charge. My women, and many of yours, were burned at the stake for floating.
So I will not join in throwing Andrea into the water to see if she floats. I will not allow another woman to be burned at the stake by a culture of corrupted journalism, and corporate media. I will not purchase the products of the advertisers paying to play their commercials during the dissemination of demonizing misinformation that does nothing but perpetuate myth and stigmatize mental illness as criminal.
Ironically, in 1979 Ridley Scott directed the science fiction horror film “Alien” featuring the ultimate grrrl power character: Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver. Ripley’s character was arguably a defining moment in the development of feminist icons in film. I dare say James Cameron truly took Ripley to the warrior mom status in the sequel, “Aliens.” So as CNN profits from criminalizing the life-long psychiatric illness of a woman, I am reminded of Sgt. Ripley’s epic face-off with the massive monster-mama Alien — “Get away from her, you bitch.”
Yes, I want to protect Andrea Yates. There, I said it. I want to protect her and all of the women who suffer, will suffer, and have suffered postpartum psychosis from the tyranny of television news. I want to protect the families irrevocably damaged by postpartum psychosis from the re-traumatization inflicted by a nation addicted to misrepresentation. I want a revolution of policy, practice and politics that perpetuate patriarchy’s incessant sucking on the tit of the Medea myth.
Talking about a revolution, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way:
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restricting. (King, 1968)
The Good Samaritan parable is fitting. Reaching down to help those injured by mental illness is needed. But it is only an initial step. We must review the conditions of the road; research the conditions of fear that make us do nothing, as the Priest and the Levite did. We must go back and fix the road, and repair what continues to create the causes for women like Andrea to end up life’s roadside.
The cracks in the road through which women fall everyday are clear: psychiatric symptoms, stigma, ineffective treatment, lack of psychosocial support. And, we could begin to rebuild with evidence-based models of care, prevention, and health that include reproductive life planning, preconception and interconception care such as those suggested by Michael C. Lu, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., associate administrator of maternal and child health of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). A 3.0 model of women’s health care where women are at the center, not providers driven by the practice protocol of insurers. We could put women at the center of their reproductive health, and pave the way for early detection, prevention and screening for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression. We could mandate universal screening and provide training to mental health and medical care providers regarding perinatal psychiatric disorders.
But in the immediate, the courage of compassion prescribed by Dr. King that I believe is necessary requires the grit to face a fear-based profit driven edifice like CNN, which is producing suffering and slandering of mentally ill mothers, and restrict it. Because this isn’t only a matter of what’s at stake, it is who is at stake. Our daughters, granddaughters, and women yet to come need us to fix the dangerous road to Jericho now so that they don’t burn at the stake for floating in the future.
~ Walker Karraa
Walker Karraa, PhDc, is a doctoral candidate at Sofia University where she is finishing her dissertation study of the transformational dimensions of postpartum depression. Walker was the founding President of PATTCh, an organization founded by Penny Simkin dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth. Walker is the perinatal mental health contributor for Lamaze International’s Science and Sensibility, Giving Birth With Confidence, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives’ (ACNM) Midwives Connection. She is co-authoring a book with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, FAPA on PTSD following childbirth. Walker is a 10-year breast cancer survivor, and lives in Sherman Oaks, CA with her two children and husband.