Last Thursday, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) held a joint press conference in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the passage of the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act. It was a beautiful day, full of blue sky and spring breezes, on which to begin moving forward with the development of much-needed improved care for new mothers with postpartum depression.
The MOTHERS Act was named after Melanie Blocker Stokes, who lost her battle with postpartum psychosis in 2001, just weeks after her daughter was born, after jumping to her death from the rooftop of a Chicago hotel. Her loss is particularly poignant to me, as I went through postpartum OCD that same year, and my son Jackson is the same age as Melanie’s daughter, Sommer Skyy.
The MOTHERS Act will help to provide the kind of awareness and services that Melanie should have had and that today’s mothers deserve.
As Senator Menendez and Brooke Shields wrote jointly on the Huffington Post last week, this legislation “ ... encourages the creation of local programs to give grants to community organizations, hospitals, and local governments to put in place effective support services. Hopefully, over time, we will see such support services spring up in every city and community across America because postpartum depression has no boundaries.” It also calls for more research into the causes of and treatments for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, as well as a national awareness campaign.
I still can’t believe I was able to stand up at the front of the press conference and speak alongside Carol Blocker, who experienced the ultimate sacrifice of losing her precious daughter. It was Carol who inspired me to start my blog Postpartum Progress. After I wrote an essay in Newsweek on my experience with postpartum OCD, she wrote a letter to the editor in response, wishing her daughter had been able to read my words so she would have known she wasn’t alone. I knew then that I had to do more to help other mothers.
Susan Stone described Carol’s dedication to this legislation and her daughter’s memory, writing about the press event on her blog Perinatal Pro.
“Carol embodies the eternal caretaking and dedication associated with a mother's love for her child - which crosses the boundaries of life and death, knows no limits and stops at nothing to achieve an end. In this case, Carol's end is one which will save the lives of thousands of women she will never meet. As the bill bears her daughter's name, the legacy of Melanie Blocker Stokes will be one of help and support to mothers struggling with pregnancy related mood disorders -that they might be spared and saved from a similar fate.”
Pictured, from left to right, Katherine Stone, Sylvia Lasalandra, PPD survivor and author of the book “A Daughter’s Touch,” Senator Robert Menendez, Dr. Gwendolyn Keita of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Albert Strunk of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Susan Stone, chair of Postpartum Support International.
We are eternally grateful to Sen. Menendez and Rep. Rush for their long-term unwavering commitment which resulted in the passage of this bill. It’s now up to the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to start the process of developing and rolling out the public awareness campaign for postpartum depression. While funds already exist within HRSA for the awareness campaigns and research, they do not for the community grants. Thus we need to push to ensure the $3 million budgeted in the bill is appropriated for these grants before that part of the bill can get underway. We’re not done yet and must continue to work to ensure that everything that is promised in the bill becomes reality.
Thursday was, nonetheless, a very important step. It provided official validation. We exist. Women with postpartum depression and anxiety exist in great numbers, actually. This nation's officials are recognizing that. That means more than I even realized until I was standing there in full view of the U.S. Capitol with the trees swaying in the blustery wind and a photo of Melanie Blocker Stokes in my hands. We have more to do, but today was a great step forward for all of those people who have labored so long to get to this point and for the mothers who have yet to experience perinatal mood or anxiety disorders.
Maybe Melanie was making the breeze blow to say thank you for remembering me.
Katherine Stone Postpartum Progress http://postpartumprogress.typepad.com
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