Why I Care About the “Every mother, every time. Universal Mental Health Screening for Every Pregnant and Postpartum Woman” Petition

1656274_403624973107146_1662257079_n

The topic I am writing about today is of tantamount importance to me, and for countless women and their families.

Being diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder two months after the birth of my daughter was the most devastating event in my life.  If I had received any kind of pregnancy/postpartum mental health screening, I would have had a chance at early diagnosis and proper treatment.  I have a strong history of mental illness in my family, and my father had bipolar one disorder.  If I had been screened for mood disorders, an enormous amount of suffering could have possibly been averted. My story is just one drop in an ocean full of similar stories.  This cycle does not have to continue, and someone is doing something about it…and we can join her to help in a small but meaningful way.

Dr. Walker Karraa is a crusader in the field of women’s pregnancy/postpartum mental health.  On March 4th, Dr. Karraa created a groundbreaking White House petition.  This petition, which is only active until April 4th, still needs ninety-eight thousand signatures. Even if we don’t reach the goal, every signature has value.  Here’s the petition summary:

“Every mother, every time. Universal mental health screening for every pregnant and postpartum woman”

Suicide is a leading cause of death for women during the first year after childbirth. 1 in 7 women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or postpartum, yet nearly 50% remain untreated. In pregnancy, maternal mental illness negatively effects fetal development,and leads to adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight and premature delivery. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) can impair infant and early childhood cognitive and emotional development. Despite overwhelming empirical evidence, there is no universal mandate for care providers to screen pregnant and postpartum women for depression, anxiety, or family history of mental illness–a well established risk factor. Screen every mother, every time to prevent and treat perinatal mental illness.

To register and sign to petition (takes less than 5 minutes):

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/every-mother-every-time-universal-mental-health-screening-every-pregnant-and-postpartum-woman/rG1jLyYj

Dr. Karraa has encountered arguments by some who feel that such a screening could be detrimental, and she refutes two main arguments brilliantly at HealthyPlace.com:  

http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/yourmentalhealth/2014/03/19/mental-health-screening-for-pregnant-and-postpartum-women/

To read Dr. Karraa’s interview with Senior Editor Jeanne Faulkner of Christy Turlington’s website/organization Every Mother Counts:

http://www.everymothercounts.org/blog/201403/signing-petition-can-save-mothers-lives

Dr. Karraa’s new website Stigmama was created for women to speak their truths in a non-judgmental, supportive community.  Dr. Karraa is currently recruiting contributions by mothers facing mental illness stigma:

http://stigmama.com/

Dr. Karraa’s website:

http://www.walkerkarraa.com/

Thank you for reading, as always!

Dyane

Advertisements

Writerly Ramblings and Hypergraphia Part 1


imgres
imgres-1

L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle, my two favorite writers.  (Love those glasses!)

Lately my writing output has skyrocketed.  After being creatively blocked for most of the past eight years,  I’m grateful to have the opportunity and the luxury to write.  I’ve been typing for at least an hour every day for several months now.  I even managed to write on days when I felt under the weather.  I wasn’t being a complete fool – I merely wished to write because I felt better after doing it.

For all I know perhaps my writing compulsively has boosted the serotonin level in my brain. While daily writing sounds rather obsessive, it has felt so good and write; I mean right. 😉

Writing definitely exercises my brain cells.  I can feel it.  After I’ve completed an article I get a buzz that’s similar to one achieved from a sweaty workout on my elliptical.  As an A.C.E.-certified personal trainer, I’ve been a fervent believer in cardiovascular exercise for a long time.  I never considered writing to be a “workout” until this year, so now maybe I’ll buy a groovy belt, leg warmers and leotard a la Jamie Lee Curtis in Perfect to wear at my desk.

imgres-2

On a more serious note, typing away for hours on a daily basis may sound alarm bells to those close to me.  When I’ve been manic and hypomanic, I’ve had the rare condition of acute hypergraphia.

Hypergraphia is defined in Wikipedia as:

“A behavioral condition characterized by the intense desire to write. Forms of hypergraphia can vary in writing style and content.  Some write in a coherent, logical manner, others write in a more jumbled style.  Studies have suggested that hypergraphia is related to bipolar disorder, hypomania, and schizophrenia.” 

I plan on writing more about hypergraphia in tomorrow’s blog post.  It’s a fascinating topic, and to this day I’ll never forget how it felt to actually experience it.  Luckily, electroconvulsive therapy has not wiped out my recollection of what it felt like to write in that otherworldly, amazing, exhausting, and, at times, terrifying way.  

I shouldn’t make light about hypergraphia, because it’s a serious condition.  I became annoyed yesterday when I found a snarky article online. (Dare I write this?  Why not: a “snarkticle”) It was written by a woman who clearly had no idea what she was discussing when it came to hypergraphia.  While she made some valid points, I disagreed with the majority of them and I want to have some fun and address them on Thursday.  To get a head start you can read the piece here:

http://open.salon.com/blog/valerie_lopes/2009/02/16/do_i_have_hypergraphia_or_am_i_just_prolific

If one hasn’t really, truly lived with this state, I feel 90% of writers should stick to the classic adage that I believe in with all my heart: “write what you know”.

What’s really behind this ramble?  Fear.  Fear of my creative drive leaving as quickly and mysteriously as it arrived.  I am especially scared about next week when I begin the heavy-duty work on my draft of Birth of a New Brain.  I am afraid of not being able to write a damn word – I’m scared of writer’s block making its gruesome return.  This fear has been the primary force in driving me to write every day, even when I knew I wasn’t creating memorable turns of phrase.  I felt that if I just wrote something, the act of writing could, at the very least, keep the flow of words coming day after day.  There are entire books written about this subject, of course, not to mention writing seminars and conferences.

I’ll carry on.  Today I am going to take a break from writing during most of my free time to read instead.  I actually have bona fide homework: to read a review copy of Preventing Bipolar Relapse by Dr. Ruth C. White.  I’d rather write, but I promised my counselor I’d read the book.  I’m also planning to write a review about the book for my International Bipolar Foundation blog.  I read and write in front of my Sunbox DL.   I’ve had this therapeutic light for the past decade, and it’s designed for Seasonal Affective Disorder among other conditions.  My light energizes me and literally brightens my day.  I’ll return tomorrow with yet another discourse; until then, I wish you a wonderful day!  Thanks for reading!