For Immediate Release:
April 12, 2021
Reseda Tragedy Speaks to Need to Address Maternal Mental Health Issues
LOS ANGELES – The case of three young children who were found slain in their Reseda apartment and the arrest of their mother speaks to the urgent need to address maternal mental health issues.
Perinatal mental health disorders, which include depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, bipolar disorders and psychosis that occur during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period, are the leading complication of childbirth. According to the 2016 Los Angeles Mommy and Baby Survey, 1 out of 4 new mothers in LA reported symptoms of depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and in households living below the federal poverty level, rates are as high as 50%. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. A national study reports that rates of perinatal depression have increased from 15% pre-pandemic to 40% and rates of moderate to high perinatal anxiety have increased from 29% to 72%.
There are a large number of risk factors that predispose a woman to the onset of a perinatal mental health disorder, including history of mental illness, trauma, pregnancy loss, financial and other stressors. However, perinatal depression, anxiety and psychosis are preventable through screening during pregnancy and the postpartum period. They are also treatable through psychotherapy, medication management and/or social support. Additionally, postpartum psychosis is not an extreme form of postpartum depression. It is an illness completely separate from other kinds of perinatal mental health disorders featuring delusions and a break from reality. It is an extremely rare life-threatening medical emergency, occurring in only 0.1-0.2% of births.
“Although we do not know the details surrounding this tragedy, we mourn the deaths of these three young children. We also mourn the lack of timely, accessible and culturally appropriate mental health support available to expectant and new families across Los Angeles County. Despite much progress being made over the past several years, new families still face too many barriers to care including lack of screening, uninformed providers, insurance issues, cultural barriers, lack of child care and/or transportation,” states Kelly O’Connor Kay, Executive Director of Maternal Mental Health NOW. “More work needs to be done now in order to ensure that all new parents are screened for depression and anxiety during the perinatal period and that all who are struggling receive the care that they need.”
The mission of Maternal Mental Health NOW is to remove barriers to the prevention, screening and treatment of prenatal and postpartum depression in Los Angeles County. More information is available at MaternalMentalHealthNOW.org
Kelly O’Connor Kay