More than one week since Miriam Carey was shot and killed by police, after a chase from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, there have been few voices speaking out and questioning her death and the issues surrounding it. Her sisters and family stated that she suffered from post-partum depression following the birth of her one year old daughter, Erica. According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of post-partum depression range from insomnia, mood swings, overwhelming fatigue, appetite loss to a more severe condition called post-partum psychosis. The Mayo Clinic describes post-partum psychosis with symptoms of confusion, delusion, disorientation, hallucination and paranoia. Miriam Carey was being treated for her post-partum depression. She had previously been hospitalized with no history of violence, according to her mother. And she had a supportive family who was aware of her illness and is speaking out.
On other health issues affecting women, such as abortion, contraceptives, breast cancer, cervical cancer and Planned Parenthood funding, women are quick to speak out. Rarely, do we hear many persons, including women who suffered from mental health illness, addressing post-partum depression which affects 10- 20% of women after delivery. Post-partum depression forces many women to suffer in silence.
Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act. The Community Mental Health Act help to establish comprehensive community mental health centers throughout the country, allowing many mentally ill persons to be removed from warehousing in hospitals. In a press release issued today, Chelsea Clinton says: “Fifty years ago, President Kennedy urged Americans to take a bold new approach to mental health care. However today, far too many people still struggle in silence rather than face the stigma of mental illness. Working together, we can better understand these issues and implement smart policy choices to finally end the discrimination.”
Miriam Carey was branded in the media with the stigma of mental illness. It’s no wonder that those who suffer from mental health issues refrain from coming forward to discuss it. And those in Congress gave a standing ovation and applauded the D.C. police for shooting Miriam Carey. Of course, no one knew of her mental health issues at the time of her death. Yet few have come forward to speak about her mental health issues since learning about them, except for her family. It’s as if she is on a mental illness island by herself.
As the saying goes, if we’re not a part of the solution, then we’re part of the problem. For all who remain silent on post-partum depression and other mental health issues, they’re part of the problem of continuing stigma against these issues. In a society where police shoot and kill an unarmed 34 year old woman suffering from post-partum depression and few question it, one has to wonder how far we’ve come in the 50 years since the passage of the Community Mental Health Act. We still have a long way to go. And the case of Miriam Carey is but one example.