Ever since Lindsay Clancy was arrested for taking the lives of her three children before attempting to take her own, Jan. 2023, the reality of postpartum psychosis has been thrust into mainstream media. Before Clancy’s lawyers cited the postpartum condition as the main contributing factor into her unthinkable act, psychosis didn’t seem to be on many people’s radar as a response to giving birth.
Psychosis isn’t something that only involves seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, it’s a collective list of symptoms. Some of the symptoms outside of visual and auditory hallucinations is, delusional thinking, paranoia, belief of your thoughts being broadcasted, aggression, disorganized speech, and many more.
But just because someone is experiencing psychosis doesn’t mean they’re experiencing all of the symptoms and most people that are in a psychotic episode are too disorganized to carry out any meaningful thought out plan. As a therapist that specializes in psychotic disorders, it’s tragic to see that the disorder may have contributed to the deaths of Clancy’s children and I also recognize this particular case is acting as a springboard for an important dialogue.
Since this case has hit the news cycle, moms on TikTok are sharing their own experiences with postpartum psychosis and the hashtag #postpartumpsychosis has over 66 million views. Video after video show moms talking about how psychosis presented for them while others are explaining their experience with postpartum depression or anxiety.
Kelsi Ullom is one of the moms that shared her experience in hopes to help other parents recognize the symptoms for themselves or their partners. In her video that has nearly 900K views, Ullom explains that even though she had been experiencing hallucinations, delusions and other psychotic symptoms, she didn’t tell anyone because due to fear of someone taking her baby away.
Lindsay Clancy story / postpartum anxiety #lindsayclancy #postpartumdepresssion #postpartumanxiety #ppdawareness #greenscreen
Ullom’s fear is not unique. Many people that experience the extreme end of postpartum mental health issues are afraid to tell their health care providers due to fear of their child being removed from their care. I was a trained mental health professional when I had my last child and vividly remember tearfully telling my midwife that I was afraid to inform her of how bad my postpartum anxiety had gotten for that very reason.
The stigma around mental health issues and one’s ability to care for themselves, let alone care for their children isn’t new. We’ve seen the conversation play out publicly when a celebrity parent has a mental health crisis. But when it comes to postpartum mental health disorders, seeking professional help is imperative in many instances, especially with psychosis.
With how extreme postpartum psychosis can be, waiting for a far off appointment isn’t the best plan because it is considered a crisis that requires immediate attention. Yet, due to the nature of psychosis, most people experiencing it have no idea they’re in the midst of psychosis because their thought processes are distorted by delusions. This is why it’s important for partners to be able to recognize the signs.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I know we’re not doing enough to support people post-birth. My friend will always be remembered for the joy and kindness she showed every single person she met. Those final months were not representative of who she was. #postpartum #postpartumpsychosis #ppd #mentalhealth
Psychosis is rare after giving birth and isn’t currently recognized as an official postpartum condition, though it does happen. Psychiatrist, Dr. Susan Hatters-Friedman told Insider that symptoms of postpartum psychosis start suddenly within the first days or weeks after someone gives birth. She goes on to tell the outlet that the longer psychosis is left untreated that the likelihood is higher for the person to die by suicide or take the life of their children.What makes postpartum conditions so unique and separate them from other mental health conditions, is that the focus is generally around the child or yourself. So instead of a delusion about the FBI bugging your home, your brain may tell you that your husband plotting to kill your baby.But with a delusion, your brain doesn’t hop to the logical likelihood. Instead it could make you think that in order to not know the pain of living without your baby that you should walk into traffic with your baby so neither of you live without each other.
Brains are powerful and psychosis isn’t so cut and dry. You don’t think in a way that would make sense if you spoke it out loud and delusions are so strong that you can’t be convinced that they’re incorrect no matter what evidence you have to the contrary.
When trying to explain what psychosis was like to my husband after returning home from having to hospitalize a client, I told him to imagine that his mom just walked in the room and asked him who he was talking to. He looked confused and said, “but she would see you,” so I followed up with, “would she? If she told you she didn’t see anyone and she began to look concerned, how would you feel?” Ultimately, just that quick exchange gave him a small glimpse into the fear, confusion and frustration psychosis could cause.
My postpartum psychosis story #postpartumpsychosis #lindsayclancy #ppp #pppawareness #newmom #maternalhealth #postpartum #postpartumdepresssion
It’s not an easy condition and when you throw in hormones readjusting and caring for a newborn on top of it all, it seems quite cruel that there isn’t more education around the possibility. Hopefully, with the increased conversation around postpartum psychosis due to the sad tragedy of the Clancy children, new parents and medical providers alike will be more aware of the signs.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis is a mental health emergency and needs immediate intervention from professionals.