PMADs Don’t Discriminate and Neither Should We
by Hajara Kutty
Within the past six months, ten children lost their lives at the hands of postpartum
mothers. Erin Merdy, Dimone Fleming, Paulesha Green-Pulliam and Lindsay Clancy
are all charged with taking their children’s lives
And yet, only one of those tragedies, the one in Duxbury, Massachusetts, sparked
Postpartum experts, organizations and advocates came out to rightly identify the
illness that could cause a mother to do the unthinkable. Journalists and media
outlets looked for sources to share their stories of postpartum depression and
psychosis. Some TikTok users even posted to create awareness.
As a postpartum advocate, I am grateful for these conversations and the awareness
it has brought to postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. However, it is disturbing
and hurtful that these same conversations failed to materialize when Black children
were at the centre of similar tragedies.
In the absence of a relevant angle, many media stories involving the racialized
mothers morphed into narratives about how they lived in shelters, were on the brink
of eviction or facing custody battles. The implication is that these mothers took their
children’s lives because of hardship.
As those in the field of postpartum mental health, we know this is not the case. All of
these women were postpartum and many were exhibiting bizarre behavior before the
tragedies (a key symptom of postpartum psychosis). Despite these relevant details,
advocates and experts were largely silent, and the media discourse understandably
remained focused on these women’s personal lives.
As a postpartum community, we need to do a better job of stepping up to bat when
tragedies involve racialized mothers.
The reality is that such tragedies will not be pretty. The stories may include
unemployment and poverty. These elements do not render these tragedies any less
postpartum in nature or less tragic; they make them that much more unfortunate.
As advocates for perinatal mental health, we need to ensure that we don’t just beat
the drums of postpartum mental health when the cases involve families that fit a
privileged white middle-class profile. We need to add our voices to steer the
conversations to the topic of postpartum mental health whenever the tragedy
involves any mom within a year of giving birth.
If postpartum mental illnesses don’t discriminate, then neither should we.
You are not alone – and you do not need a diagnosis to reach out for help. We are here for you.
Call or Text the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline (US Only): 1-833-943-5746
Or visit the PSI Website
About Hajara Kutty: Hajara Kutty is an educator, Muslim mental health advocate
and a Support Coordinator with Postpartum Support International.
From Postpartum Support International: In ‘PMADs Don’t Discriminate and Neither Should We,’ the Author, Hajara Kutty, provides an important call to action: “We need to do a better job of stepping up to bat when tragedies involve racialized mothers.” PSI agrees that more work needs to be done to help elevate topics that focus on the health and wellness of minoritized groups, including fair and equal representation in the media. PSI commits to continuing efforts to provide education and awareness that focus on elevating the voices and stories of ALL pregnant, postpartum and post-loss parents, especially in times of tragedy.
Together we can make a difference in making sure all voices and stories deserve compassion and attention.