Monthly Archives: October 2008

Seeking Spanish Language & Cultural Resources

Stephanie Morales, the co-Coordinator for PSI’s Spanish Language Warmline is currently seeking appropriate Spanish language resources for women and families. Please forward any resources you may know of to Stephanie via email.

It is wonderful when the caller calls but we need to offer them sound, culturally and linguistically appropriate services in their geographical area.

Please do not hesitate to contact Stephanie with any questions or concerns you might have. If you speak Spanish and are also interested in volunteering with PSI for the Spanish Warmline, feel free to contact Stephanie as well.

Sharing the Journey with Susan Dowd-Stone

As the immediate past President of Postpartum Support International, Susan continues to be committed to supporting women with Postpartum Mood Disorders through advocacy and treatment. Susan has been very encouraging towards the beginnings of my work and advocacy with Postpartum Mood Disorders which has been very meaningful to me. As President of PSI, she was aided in the development of a series of PSA’s with CBS that highlighted increased awareness of PPMD’s and has also been very active in support for The MOTHER’S Act. She maintains a private practice, Blue Sky Consulting as well as a website, Perinatal Pro.  Thank you for all your hard work and for being such an influential voice for so many women, Susan. We are fortunate to have such a wonderfully compassionate ally!

Susan, along with Alexis Menken, have put together a wonderful book, Perinatal and Postpartum Disorders: Perspectives and Treatment Guide for the Health Care Practitioner. This book offers a major resource for healthcare professionals, mental health professionals, and medical, nursing, psychology, and social work students who will be confronting this problem in their practices. The contributions, by renowned experts, fill a glaring gap in the knowledge professionals need in order to successfully manage maternal mental health. Click here to order.

Tell us a little about yourself – just who IS Susan Dowd Stone when she’s not advocating for women and families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders?

An empty nester, I enjoy teaching and clinical social work. I am ardently involved in the promotion of animal assisted therapy, i.e. exploring and demonstrating the curative powers of our animal companions in therapeutic settings. Through associations with Angels on a Leash and The Delta Society I have initiated and helped sustain AAT programs in hospitals. After the death of my canine partner,I began facilitating a pet bereavement program on a volunteer basis and writing a column on pet loss for the Animal Companion Magazine. Deeply mourning the loss of companion animals is sometimes viewed askance leading to another form of disenfranchised grief. Currently I evaluate teams of handlers and animals for hospital work and live with 3 spoiled dogs and a husband who completely enables this.

I see many human parallels in maternal animal behavior which has broadened my understanding of birth trauma. For example, I watched a show on HBO called “Weeping Camel” about a mother camel who had an excruciating breach birth. When her baby was born after two agonizing days, she rejected it. The movie focused on frantic efforts to effect that maternal infant bond, seemingly to no avail. Finally a shaman was called in to play soothing music while the baby was again brought to his mother. The moment of reunification was deeply moving. Yet, when human mothers suffer greatly during pregnancy, the birth process or its aftermath, we unrealistically maintain expectations of immediate maternal bonding and bliss.

How did you get involved in advocating for women and families struggling with PMD’s?

As a social worker in the Department of Psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center, I was charged with guiding the hospital’s implementation of the emerging, but not yet passed, NJ PPD legislative mandates. We initiated a free mother baby support group and invited every mother who gave birth at HUMC to attend. In addition, we developed a postpartum depression psychotherapy program for women identified or diagnosed with a perinatal mood disorder. As the programs facilitator I became more involved in the process and developed awareness of my own isolating experience with the illness, never acknowledged and never treated. I then became involved in a specialty peer group, was recruited by PSI to be their conference chair and then their president. The legislative work continues and I believe we will prevail.

Postpartum Mood Disorders are receiving more and more press coverage these days. Recognition and even treatment options have come a long way but in your opinion, what else needs to happen to improve the current atmosphere and attitude towards these disorders?

We need to spread the message that these are MEDICAL ILLNESSES with true biological underpinnings. It neither signifies weakness or strength if a woman does or does not develop a pregnancy related mood disorder. These disorders have no association to a woman’s character.  Such stigma is crippling to progress understanding and obscures our ability to appropriately respond. The only time we can surely associate character with PPD is through acknowledgement  of the tremendous bravery and courage it takes each woman to reach out and accept needed help.

We often encourage mothers to remember to take time for themselves. What is it that YOU do to recharge your batteries?

Top of the list is spending time with my “baby” girl Julia now 29. Like any proud mom, being in her presence brings incomparable joy which keeps me buzzed long after our lunches or conversations have ended.She’s a  an intelligent hard working entertainment news executive who retains her grace and tender heart. My husband and I hike, read and sometimes just watch the sky. We are easily entertained by simple pleasures.

I find great solace and restoration in nature and try to practice Mindfulness when stressed.  I am captivated by hummingbirds. Their population peaks in August when the babies start coming to the feeders; they do not know fear and will perch a foot away and watch you intently, a truly magical exchange. It reminds me that fear is a learned response. Their long migration every fall to Mexico and return to their same home each spring is profoundly wondrous natural mystery.

I am always interested in new and different therapies used in treating PMD’s. Would you share a little bit with us about EMDR as a type of therapy? What is the basic idea behind this therapy and who would typically benefit from it the most?

EMDR can be a powerful adjunct to psycho dynamic or CBT oriented therapy. It is an empirically validated treatment with solid research to support its application in trauma, but its mechanisms are not entirely understood. Theory postulates that stimulation of eye movement “loosens” traumatic memories held either by the body without conscious awareness, or stored in our brains’s trauma sector (the amygdala) where their reactivation can be stimulated by sights sound and smells associated with the original trauma. This may cause the victim to feel as if they are re experiencing the event and its accompanying feelings of terror and helplessness.

EMDR seems to enhance the conscious processing of such memories allowing analysis and sometimes rapid resolution of troubling symptoms when managed in a secure safe environment. EMDR is especially helpful in supporting recovery from PTSD including war and other disasters. Offered prior to  infant delivery it can help increase levels of tolerance and acceptance in  women who have suffered physical or sexual abuse in the past, or who are fearful about delivery. In addition, it can be helpful in the postpartum for women who have had traumatic birth experiences and are “stuck” in an endless loop of traumatic recollection.

I also use EMDR to “install” positive associations between achievement of new skills and feelings of mastery. As interpersonal challenges often accompany new motherhood, many women are motivated to choose different behavioral options to better parent their child. This offers mothers and clinicians alike a unique therapeutic opportunity to remediate long standing issues.

EMDR is not appropriate for women who are experiencing suicidal ideation, who evidence psychosis, or who are extremely anxious. It should always be offered within a supportive psychotherapy framework AFTER the mood has stabilized and works best in this context as an adjunct treatment to supportive therapy.

What is your philosophy regarding your approach to Postpartum Depression? How did you develop this philosophy?

First, that it is a medical illness with optimal recovery dependent on attention to biological, psychological AND social support issues.

Secondly,  NO TWO ILLNESSES or RECOVERY PLANS are alike. I am outraged when I hear someone discouraging a woman from doing what she, her doctor and her family feels will best help her recovery. The incredible guilt associated with these disorders is often unbearable, increasing and prolonging associated symptoms. Well meaning loved ones can make it worse by presenting comparisons and opinions which invalidate sufferers experience.

This philosophy was developed witnessing the agony of women who felt like failures if they were unable to live up to recovery or treatment expectations set forth by others – including practitioners!!! If one recovery plan is not working, we need a new plan… As one of my therapy icons Marsha Linehan of DBT fame says, clients don’t fail, but treatment can!!

What advice would you give to medical professionals who may come in contact with a mother who is depressed? What are some of the best things they could do for this mom? What should they not do?

If depression is identified at a medical visit, an immediate referral should be given for further assessment, along with respectful reassurance that the mother is “not alone, not to blame and with help she will be well!” (PSI’s motto). This simple early validation goes a long way to mediate a mother’s sense of fear, shame, failure and isolation.

Many medical practitioners do not want to be in the business of mental health as their training and practice may not have prepared them for this additional challenge. But developing a referral list of professionals with a specialty in maternal mental health is both doable and essential for obstetrical and pediatric practitioners. This could lead to greater likelihood of more rapid engagement in the recovery process.

No one should EVER say…”Don’t worry, You’ll get over it, this is normal, go home and enjoy your new baby!! Even if a physician has known their patient for 30 years, all bets are off when rapid emotional and hormonal shifts introduce new and powerful vulnerabilities. The moment for connection is then lost and the silent suffering resumes. Many solid homes that lasted through decades of natural wear and tear on the Texas coast couldn’t survive Hurricane Ike! But we don’t blame the builder!

I feel family support is essential to postpartum recovery. What can we do to foster family involvement in the recovery period?

While we are doing a better job of implementing social support for moms, how about support groups for partners? They often feel ignored in the process and may develop their own feelings of depression as dreams of parental bliss are challenged by a mystery illness claiming their partner while increasing their responsibilities. How about friends and family members who want to know WHAT TO DO. Women often ask me “Can you tell that to my husband, father, mother, sister??”  So I bring in the immediate circle who are often grateful for clear information about what is happening to their loved one and how to best support them.

Family and partners MUST be part of the recovery plan. The social work perspective tells us that without environmental (as well as psychological and biological) adjustments, stressors may continue which prolong the primary episode. My assessment always includes inquiry about what has always been important in this new mother’s life, what she has found comforting in the past. If she rates her spirituality at 10, we explore how to incorporate such options. It’s not just about focus on psychological dynamics, mothering skills and past and present relationships, but on reintroducing the uniquely individual environmental and emotional supports that make each woman’s life worth living.

What is it that you are most grateful for today?

The capacity to love and exchange ideas with others. Solid belief in God and country. Optimism.

And last but not least, if you had a chance to give an expectant mother (new or experienced) one piece of advice, what would you tell her?

Successfully parenting your child requires diligent attention to your own needs. Self care and self love are no longer optional and illusive concepts, but requirements of motherhood.

National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding

O Lord, you have searched us and known us

You know when we sit down and when we rise up,

and know our innermost thoughts.

You search out our paths and know all our ways.

Before we speak, you know our words.

When we were knit together in our mother’s womb

You knew us as woman, as child, as man.

Wherever we go, Your hand will lead us.

So guide us along the pathways to hope,

that night becomes bright as day.

So lead us on our walk together,

that darkness is lifted from our hearts.

So encourage us that our sisters and brothers

Who have mental illness shall know that

they never walk alone.

Amen

Ahhh – the irony of it all

I have debated whether or not to post about this but I cannot keep it to myself any longer.

It would seem dear Amy Philo has a blog here at wordpress. Those of you who are fellow bloggers (and readers) know that at the bottom of a post WordPress now includes Possibly Related Posts. Enter irony.

Amy’s prime mission is to derail the passage of The MOTHER’S Act, legislation that if enacted, would mandate screening, education, and further research for Postpartum Depression. One of her posts regarding an article against the MOTHER’S ACT blockers has a link at the bottom. To my blog. To a Post which includes Susan Dowd Stone’s Statements regarding the MOTHER’S ACT.

Yeah.

I love the internet too.

Did You Know?

Here’s a really interesting excerpt about the development of NY City’s first Maternity Clinic, founded in 1915 by the Women’s City Club of New York. You can read more here.

Infant and maternal morality were higher in the late-nineteenth-century United States than in most industrializing nations, and such deaths were more common in poor families than in elite ones. Higher American death rates were due in part to traditions of limited government that diminished the public sector’s responsibility for human health. Beginning in the 1890s, American women reformers began to fill this void in public health care by creating institutions that could serve the health needs of recent immigrants, especially women and children. Members of the Women’s City Club of New York advanced public health in a new direction by establishing New York City’s first maternity clinic to serve women’s pre-natal health needs in 1915. It offered preventive health care, childbirth nursing assistance, and postpartum care, as well as holding Mothers’ Club meetings where women could learn how to take care of their newborns. The Maternity Center became a model that representatives from many other cities studied as they grappled with extremely high maternal and infant mortality rates in the early twentieth century.

Wade Bowen Classic Celebrity Golf Tourney to Benefit Postpartum Depression

“WADE BOWEN CLASSIC” CELEBRITY GOLF TOURNAMENT AND CONCERT SET TO BENEFIT WOMEN WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

Cross Canadian Ragweed To Join Bowen At Event on Nov. 2-3 in Waco, TX

NASHVILLE, TENN – October 3, 2008 – Country music artist Wade Bowen will host his 11th annual “Wade Bowen Classic” concert and celebrity golf tournament on Nov. 2 and3 in Waco, TX.   This year’s event benefits Postpartum Support International (PSI), the world’s largest nonprofit supporting women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

An all-star concert kicks off the two-day event at the Heart of Texas Fairground GE Building in Waco at 7:00pm on November 2, featuring Bowen and friends, including Cross Canadian Ragweed and Stoney LaRue, with more guest announcements in the coming weeks. The golf tournament the next day will be a two-man scramble and will take place at beautiful Cottonwood Creek Golf Course in Waco.

“I’m so proud of how this event has grown and how everyone has come together to raise so much money,” said Bowen.  “This year we are partnering with PSI, which hits really close to home for me because my wife battled postpartum depression after the birth of our first child, and I know how severely it can affect families. Believe me when I tell you that it is a cause that needs more awareness.”

Bowen recently released his new album, “If We Ever Make It Home,” featuring the song “Turn on the Lights,” which he wrote about his family’s experience with postpartum depression. To see him perform the song, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Bnh0EuexQE.

Tickets for both components of the weekend are available at http://www.wadebowen.com/bowenclassic and start at $15. Over the past two years, The Bowen Classic has raised nearly $60,000.

Postpartum Support International (PSI) is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth. PSI was founded in 1987 to increase awareness among public and professional communities about the emotional difficulties that women can experience during and after pregnancy. The organization offers support, reliable information, best practice training, and volunteer coordinators in all 50 U.S. states as well as 26 countries around the world. Working together with volunteers, caring professionals, researchers, legislators and others, PSI is committed to eliminating stigma and ensuring that compassionate and quality care is available to all families. To learn more, call PSI at 800-944-4PPD or visit www.postpartum.net.

For additional information on the Bowen Classic, visit http://www.wadebowen.com/bowenclassic. For questions regarding sponsorship or group ticket rates please contact “Big Hearted Babes” at www.bigheartedbabes.com

Sharing the Journey with Bob Gibbs

Bob Gibbs is the father of Jennifer Bankston, the woman for whom the foundation Jenny’s Light has been founded. Jennifer tragically took both her life and her infant’s life as a result of PPD. Her family was unaware of this horrible disease and did not see the warning signs. Bob, his wife Sandy, Jenny’s sister Becky, and numerous family and friends have put their heart and soul into Jenny’s Light to ensure others do not suffer in silence the same tragedy they have experienced. I applaud their efforts and numerous achievements to date. As more families and women speak up about our experience with PPD, the louder our voice becomes – forcing change around us, eroding the stigma, and empowering new mothers faced with these same challenges – giving them the courage to step up and get the help they DESERVE.

What factors surrounding Jenny’s experience led to the development of Jenny’s Light?

I think the main thing was that it seemed so senseless and we wanted to have some good come from it. We wanted to create a lasting legacy for Jenny and Graham.

For me, the more I work with women and their families, helping to educate and aid them in recovery, the stronger I become. Have you found this to be true with your work through Jenny’s Light?

Definitely! Sandy and I feel like this is our therapy. It is so gratifying to know other people appreciate what we’re doing.

What are some of the things Jenny’s Light has already achieved in such a short time?

We have distributed over 20,000 PPD info cards, mostly at Triathlons, had over 25,000 hits on our website representing 73 countries, received hundreds of testimonials from mom’s who saw our site and were moved to seek help, raised over $140,000 in just 9 months, and have formed a partnership with Allina Health Systems and Abbott hospital to develop a universal screening program within their system.

I am absolutely amazed at the level of fundraising already in place for Jenny’s Light. Has the outpouring of support for your organization surprised you as well?

At first we were overwhelmed, but the more responses we saw on our website, the more we realized that this was a problem that needed attention and the people that had been touched by it wanted to help.

What are some signs and symptoms parents and family members should watch for after a woman gives birth that may be indicative of an underlying emotional disorder?

There are many! Frequent crying or tearfulness, loss of interest or pleasure in life, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty, showing little interest in your baby, to mention a few.

As is often mentioned to new mothers, taking time for oneself is important. What do you do to recharge yourself after a long day?

Sandy and I are both bike riders and outdoor nuts. We have a cabin in northern Wisconsin that is definitely our recharge zone.

In your opinion, what should all expectant mothers know about PPD before they give birth?

They should know the symptoms, be aware of the dangers, have a strong support system in place, and know they are not bad mothers if they don’t feel on top of the world.

What should health care providers do to improve their treatment and prevention of PPD?

This is the area where the most work is needed. No specialty really wants to take on more work in dealing with this problem. We are attacking it from the Mental Health angle. There needs to be screening, follow-up, and care provided to these mother if don’t want to see repeats of what happened to Jenny and Graham.

During this time in your life, what has given you strength to go on after losing Jenny and Graham?

Jenny was a very special person. She was loved by so many people, Sandy and I have a hard time comprehending it sometimes. We feel that continuing her legacy of caring is important for us and all the people that she touched.

Last but not least, do you have any advice for other parents who have a new or expectant mother in their lives?

Parents, spouses, friends, all need to know about the signs of PPD’s . One of the most sinister things about PPD is that mothers are often hesitant to ask for help, fearing they will be looked upon as unfit mothers.

Shame on Oprah

Today as I was watching TV with Grandmama, I saw a commercial for Oprah’s show this afternoon. The ad made mention of overwhelmed parents. So I asked my husband to set up our TiVo to record the program as I thought that maybe Oprah would be talking about Postpartum Depression or something similar. I was OH SO WRONG and OH SO MISLED by the ad.

I turned on the show to watch just a few moments ago and deleted it just a few minutes into the program. The topic was about overwhelmed parents but the lead interviewee was a mom who had tragically left her two year old daughter in her car for eight hours. Graphic 911 calls were played prior to the first commercial break (which, by the way, I did not make it to) and the mother wept as they were played.

Really, Oprah? REALLY?

Yes, this is a tragedy and needs to be addressed. But to advertise it as a show about overwhelmed parents with no warning regarding the true topic and stories to be included is sheer irresponsibility. Clearly this is a situation that may arise from being overwhelmed but I would say this is more than just Overwhelmed. My heart and prayers go out to this family as I cannot imagine being in their shoes but SHAME ON OPRAH for misrepresenting her topic and possibly causing harm to a mother out there who may be suffering from Postpartum Depression and had been told to watch the show by some well-meaning family member or like me, seen the ad and decided to watch because SHE TOO was feeling a bit overwhelmed and saw the possibility of hope and help. Afterall, it IS OPRAH and that’s what she does, right?