Mine Ener

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Villanova staff should be applauded for the efforts at honoring the memory of Mine An Ener. Please accept my sincere sympathy for the loss of Mine and her daughter, as well as the loss to her friends and family and Villanova community.

After hearing of the tragedy, I wrote op-ed piece on postpartum depression that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Aug. 13, 2003, just days before she took her life. Both she and her daughter were victims taken by this potentially horrific and deadly illness that is often hidden by those it strikes and misdiagnosed, undertreated or ignored by the health care community.

I felt–and still feel–very connected to this tragedy. After reading the results of the Villanovan survey I am compelled to write.

Having been in academia most of my life, I live near St. Paul. I am one of the lucky survivors of postpartum depression, and today I wonder if my small contributions to my university would have been remembered. Or would the sin-or in this case, crime-be the issue?

In 2001 after news of the Yates family tragedy, my best friend–and mother of three–said at one time she would never have felt any empathy or understanding of such a horrific crime. But she witnessed my own trial with postpartum depression just a year before, and it changed her mind.

On Jan. 27, 2000 when my son was five months old, I self-admitted to a Minneapolis hospital, sunken in an abyss of postpartum depression compounded by the unexpected death of my mother. The unit was no place for a new mother in the grips of a horrifying postpartum mental illness–for months I had a racing mind, severe insomnia, and despite a voracious appetite, had lost 40 pounds–all characteristics of a serious, agitated depression. There I felt no one cared about my condition, especially the insomnia or the the tachycardia I believe was from high doses of amytriptaline–a dark-ages antidepressant that the HMO-mandated psychiatrist had prescribed a few weeks before.

The next day I asked to be released–my main goal was to return to the two or three hours’ of broken sleep I would get on self-administered sleeping pills and to get off the draconian drug I was given. After all, I had been surviving that way for weeks, and I think the psychiatrist’s consuming concern about noncompliance and potential addiction clouded her judgment over the seriousness of my condition. While I never actively attempted suicide nor had delusions, heard voices, or had thoughts of harming my child, I was increasing despondent from a racing mind, an inability to sleep, overwhelming fatigue, and grief over my mother’s death.

I spent the next few months fighting the shrink who would not put me back on Zoloft, which was prescribed initially by a family practice doctor. It had worked, but in my twisted state of mind and under the duress surrounding my mother’s death, I began to think it had caused the insomnia and had stopped taking once it worked.

Finally a pharmacist advised me on how to confront the shrink. I summoned what little wits I had left and did so, angrily. She said, “I don’t care what you are on,” wrote the prescription for Zoloft, and shooed me out the door. I never saw her again and was better within weeks. My story is one of many tales of inadequate treatment from a broken system. Again, I am one of the lucky ones.

In 2004, tragedies related to postpartum mental illness continue (source: Google News Alerts, posted at www.depressionafterdelivery.com):Iris Chang (suicide, California); Michigan 2004 Teacher of the Year Mary Ellen Moffitt (suicide/infanticide); Andrea Campanari (suicide, Illinois); Amanda Fredrickson (infanticide, Illinois); Dong Chiu-yn (infanticide, Taiwan); Annie Spangler (suicide, California); Hui Zhu (infanticide, California); Gemma Wernick, (suicide/infanticide, Australia); Dena Schlosser (infanticide, Texas); Andrea Labbe (familicide, Ontario); and undoubtedly many more.

Such preventable tragedies shake society’s soul. It is time for funding for research, education, awareness, and careful screening of all new moms and the creation of a safe haven for those who suffer. In September, the U.S. Congress heard testimony on the Melanie Stokes Act, which advocates pospartum depression education, awareness, research and essential care. Moreover, it is time to remedy the society’s schizophrenic view of mental versu. physical illness and end these and other preventable tragedies.

Thank you again for recognizing Ener’s contributions to Villanova

Brenda K. BredahlHudson, Wis. Board member, Depression After Delivery Inc.Journalism instructor and communications specialist, University of Wisconsin-River Falls