This story is so sad and tragic on a variety of levels: Miriam Carey, a 34-year-old mother was gunned down yesterday in Washington, D.C. Although found later to be unarmed, she had rammed police vehicles and injured others, driven through barriers, and led police on a high-speed chase, driving hazardously. All through that incident her year-old daughter was strapped into the back of her own car. (Note: other sources claim the baby was eighteen months old.)
Reportedly, Ms. Carey had been suffering from postnatal (also called postpartum) depression severe enough to necessitate her hospitalization. She had also, according to some sources, been under the delusion that President Obama had been stalking her.
Whether any of the above accounts are accurate may never come to light, considering the woman is dead. There are certainly arguments abounding now, in hindsight, as to whether or not police overreacted by shooting her. Under the circumstances, with little time to make judgments, it is hard to say if this is the case. After all, she did attack others, injuring a Secret Service member and a D.C. police officer with her car; she rammed barriers in the area of the Capitol. Perhaps local police and other officials were still on edge following another recent incident in D.C., the Navy Yard shootings which left twelve people dead (see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/us/shooting-reported-at-washington-navy-yard.html?pagewanted=all).
The question asked here is more along the lines of prevention: was Miriam Carey suffering from a more serious condition, the more-rarely-heard-of postnatal psychosis? After all, she was delusional; she had recently been fired from her dental hygienist job in Stamford, Connecticut, where she lived, over complaints from patients about being too rough. Postnatal psychosis is usually only heard of by the general populace when incidents resulting in violent behavior are involved. Those often take the form of women murdering their children and/or others, including, sometimes, themselves. Certainly Ms. Carey’s recent actions do coincide with the symptoms of this ailment: confusion, disorientation, delusions, paranoia, and attempts to harm others. If this was the case,can more be done to recognize and treat such illness in other women, to prevent this scenario from occurring again?
Many women who suffer from any postpartum distress don’t like the idea of using drugs to control their problem, especially if they are nursing. Lots of modern mothers don’t even wish to use any pharmaceuticals, during or after pregnancy, as they wish to keep their bodies and their babies free of the possible harmful side-effects often associated with such medications. Could any natural means, then, help some women who experience mental disorders following delivery?
There are natural means, some just being explored now, others as old as childbirth itself. After all, postnatal stresses are nothing new. The hormonal upheavals, the difficulties of raising a child, whether the first or latest of several, are experiences shared by countless women throughout the ages. Add to these the modern factors (such as suffered by Ms. Carey) of unemployment, difficulty with the baby’s father, especially if he is not married to the mother, juggling work and motherhood, possible health problems of the infant—it’s a wonder more women don’t cave in. However, having a solid support system, whether by the father or other family members, community, economic wellbeing, and adequate health care (hear that, supposedly pro-family GOP?) are vital in helping mothers raise healthy children as well as staying healthy themselves, both physically and mentally.
Whether a woman opts for herbal remedies, acupuncture, light treatment, clinical nutrition, or other means, she needs to exercise caution for her child’s health as well as her own. As previously mentioned, pharmaceutical substances often complicate matters and can frequently precipitate depression, suicide and other form of violent behavior. It is not known at this time if Miriam Carey was treated with any prescription or over-the-counter medications. What is known currently is that an infant is now without a mother, a young woman is dead, others are injured (their conditions unknown), and others are left to mourn. While all the details still need to be sorted out, the most urgent matter is: how can this type of situation be prevented from happening again?
For more information on the Miriam Carey story, see:
To learn more about postnatal depression and psychosis, see: