Recently reported in the news, sadly country singer Mindy McCready took her own life and left her 2 small children behind. Mindy struggled publically with her personal life, relationships and being a mother. Despite her success as a country singer, she experienced depression, loss and abuse throughout her life. Mindy could easily be described in the media as a “Hot Mess”.
Who would connect this “Hot Mess” with a high risk for pregnancy and postpartum depression? The signs were there. Is it possible that no one recognized the signs even when she attempted suicide while pregnant with her first child? If not treated or planned for, pre and postpartum depression can make a mother’s existing depression stronger and intensify her moods and feelings.
Research shows that 21% of women experience depression during their life time with a noted increase in their reproductive years (Postpartum Support International, 2009). Mindy’s experience was complicated with the traumatic death of her partner, loss of her children, battle with substance abuse and unhealthy relationships. It is known that substance abuse can mask depression or another underlying mental health concern related to history of abuse, trauma and posttraumatic stress.
Just like taking Folic Acid to prevent birth defects, early intervention from mental health care providers lowers the risk of postpartum depression, anxiety, use of addictive of substances, marital problems, disability, child abuse & neglect, developmental delays in children, removal of children from the mother and in extreme and rare cases a mother’s risk of suicide and infanticide. Research strongly indicates that women with histories of substance abuse and mental health concerns should receive preventative prenatal and postpartum mental health care (Lori, E Ross & Cindy-Lee Dennis, 2009). No one can deny Mindy was at risk.
Why didn’t someone pick up on Mindy’s Prenatal and Postpartum Risk? Mindy’s youngest child is 9 months old. Mindy falls within the 12 month window for pre and postpartum depression risk. Not to mention her previous suicide attempt while pregnant with her first child. Postpartum depression is the number one complication of birth (PSI, 2009). It is real and women who have had loss, trauma, extreme grief and substance abuse problems need help and support before and following the birth of a child. Mindy’s already high risk for postpartum depression was heightened by her partner taking his own life.
The stigma of mental health is so strong that people can’t talk about it. But it is acceptable to call someone a “Hot Mess”, allowing us to step away from the cultural distaste for mental health. It is flippant and often provokes laughter but yet there is something forgiving in this term. So here in lies the question…… if we can’t change the stigma, why not change what we call it. Maybe this would have prevented the sad loss of a talented women, and mother. Mindy’s death didn’t’ need to happen.
If a mother is at risk for pregnancy and postpartum depression we need to let her know it is not her fault to reach out and get help. Don’t judge her, walk beside her and be an advocate. Being a “Hot Mess” is ok when you have a new baby and children, too much grief to handle, trauma, posttraumatic stress and a history of depression. Fighting this battle by herself won’t make her stronger and it is not something she is burdened to deal with alone. There is help and she doesn’t have to suffer. Help her Talk to her doctor, psychiatrist, therapist or someone she trusts.
If you or someone you know has been struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts and needs help…. call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org Call for yourself or someone you care about; free and confidential; network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide; available 24/7
For more information on Postpartum Depression call 1-800- 944-4PDD or link to Postpartum Support International http://www.postpartum.net/
For more information on substance abuse go to http://www.drugabuse.gov/
The Prevalence of Postpartum Depression among Women with Substance Use, an Abuse History, or Chronic Illness: A Systematic Review
To cite this article:
Lori E. Ross and Cindy-Lee Dennis. Journal of Women’s Health. April 2009, 18(4): 475-486. doi:10.1089/jwh.2008.0953.
About the Author: Marva Caldwell is a mom who is devoted to women’s wellness and recognizes the unique physical and emotional needs of women across their lifespan; from adolescents to menopause. Marva Specializes in Pregnancy & Postpartum Anxiety and Depression. Her 15 + years as a therapist, educator and communicator provide a strong foundation of care. The basis of her practice is caring support, as she provides an opportunity to explore individual experiences and empower women to move forward in their lives.