Medical journal casts spotlight on maternal suicide
CALGARY- An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling for better surveillance when it comes to maternal suicide.
“In Canada we look at only (maternal) deaths that occur within 42 days in hospital,” says CMAJ editor Dr. Kirsten Patrick, “but that won’t capture women who died necessarily of postpartum depression related suicide because it takes time to develop and it takes time to get really bad.”
Patrick says other countries look at maternal deaths up to nine months postpartum, and when the UK began its expanded surveillance program in 2000, health officials made a startling discovery.
“The highest rate of deaths was among women who killed themselves,” she explains.
Since that discovery, the UK has implemented new prevention programs and maternal suicide numbers have dropped.
For Calgary mother Robin Farr, it wasn’t until her son was five months old that she began experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression.
“My biggest symptom was actually anger,” Farr recalls. “I was just really angry all the time.”
Not wanting to be labeled as a depressed mother, Farr waited a year before seeking help. Treatment helped initially, but it wasn’t long before she suffered a setback and in a desperate moment, considered ending her life.
“I actually sat in my living room one day after a really hard day with my son and thought ‘I can’t do this anymore.’” Farr says she thought about swallowing a bottle of sedatives. Instead, she turned to her husband for support, took some time off work and started blogging about her experiences.
“I got so many comments from people that were really supportive, so many people said, ‘oh me too!’” Farr explains. “You think you’re the worst mother in the world and the only one who feels that way, but you’re really not.”