PSI Presents Seminar on Maternal Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System
Attorneys, Health and Mental Health Professionals, and First Responders Are Urged to Attend
Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, September 25, 2015 – We see the heart-wrenching headlines too often, “Mother Takes Life of Infant,” or “New Mom Kills Children and Attempts Suicide.” One or two mothers out of one thousand births will experience a postpartum psychosis, which often goes unrecognized, ignored or inadequately treated. Of women with this illness, roughly 4% commit infanticide, and 5% commit suicide. But the tragedy does not end with infanticide. While most countries provide compassionate legislation, in the United States women who lose their children to infanticide often face lengthy and sometimes lifelong incarceration. Postpartum Support International will present a training for professionals in the health care, mental health, legal, and law enforcement professions on the understanding and representation of women accused of crimes during the course of perinatal mental illness.
The training will take place on October 23, at the H2Ocean Restaurant in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey. Interested individuals can register at www.postpartumlegal.eventbrite.com.
“The day-long seminar will provide practical, evidence-based, and case-based information, with ample time for discussion,” says Ann Smith, CNM, and president of Postpartum Support International (PSI).The seminar’s lead faculty is criminal defense attorney George Parnham, JD, expert on the defense of individuals with mental illness and a passionate advocate for legal reform of their treatment in the criminal justice system. Parnham represented Andrea Yates, the Texas mother imprisoned after killing her children during a postpartum psychosis. Other esteemed legal, medical, and mental health experts include expert psychiatrist Margaret Spinelli, MD.
As we instruct legal professionals in the symptoms and motivations of women with severe postpartum illness and teach them how to mount a defense when necessary, we also realize that others such as first responders, ER personnel, police officers, clergy and mental health professionals also have much to learn at this seminar. “Through education, advocacy and providing resources for prompt and proper treatment, PSI endeavors to prevent postpartum psychiatric illness and the risk of tragic results that may occur as a result,” says Wendy Davis, PhD, Executive Director of Postpartum Support International, the leading organization dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood disorders.
Davis shares the story of Naomi Knoles. Naomi knew firsthand what it was like to live in despair. She suffered from postpartum psychosis. After taking the life of her 8-month old daughter in 2003, she spent 10 years in prison. While in prison she decided she would not let her daughter’s death be for nothing. She was released in September 2013 and spoke publicly about her experience. “The Voice in your head will lie to you and tell you NOT to talk about your stress, or your pain, or your feelings of hopelessness. Don’t listen…reach out. You are not alone!” Sadly, the stigma of mental illness, the stress of incarceration, and the difficulties of readjusting to life outside of prison were too great. Naomi took her life on August 24, 2015.
Women looking for support can contact the PSI warmline, available in English or Spanish, at 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD), or visit www.postpartum.net.