Victim Blaming and Suicide

Oh words.

A mom with three young kids jumped off a bridge in Pittsburgh ending her life two nights ago.  She left the kids in the car, ages 1-9.

So here is the thing:  This is maternal mortality.  This was potentially PREVENTABLE maternal mortality.

This is ONE of the high stakes of not taking care of our birthing people.  The people that make life are not being cared for.  They are needed (or expected) to raise, teach, nurture, care, and love the youngest members of our society – but we don’t support them or at least not enough.

We don’t know what this mom needed.  Maybe more supports.  Maybe there was a lot more going on.  Maybe respite from her kiddos (great loving moms need a break from their children).  Maybe someone to talk to.  Maybe admitted to the hospital until stabilized.  Maybe medication.  Maybe she was receiving all of that and there were other circumstances. Either way, Friday evening is when her story ended.

Some people, if you read comments, like to say things like “how could a mom do that to her children?”  My answer: because she was sick.  She was lost, hopeless, and disconnected.  This never means she does not love her children, usually it means she loves them more than herself.  When people end their life by suicide, it is because they believe their loved ones will be better off without them.  THAT is the loneliest feeling in the world.

Just like with most things, in order to prevent something preventable, we need to talk about it.

Suicide happens.  Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for mothers in the first year postpartum.  Yet, we don’t talk about it.  I attended a conference last May on Maternal Mortality and ‘mental health’ was mentioned three times – suicide was never mentioned in the presentations I attended.

Part of the issue as I see it:

  1. We are disconnected and lack empathy
  2. We don’t like talking about uncomfortable things
  3. We want to believe we are in control of our thoughts (spoiler alert: we all have the potential to lose control based on our situations and things that happen to us.  The mind is more powerful than your WANT to control it)
  4. We want to believe we can control bad things from happening to us
  5. We don’t like talking about things that we don’t have answers for

Victim blaming exists because we want to believe we can control things from happening to us.  We don’t want to provide empathy, because than we lose that sense of control on our own lives.  We OTHER victims of mental health needs by refusing to provide empathy and refusing to connect.  We separate and leave them more isolated than before.

“We are in a culture of victim shaming and victim blaming.  Putting the responsibility on the people who are not well to somehow figure out how to also heal themselves when their resources are low, their energy is low, their mood is low, and everything doesn’t feel well.  We are blaming them for what has happened to them. I feel it is really a failure on all of our parts. Some moms slip through cracks, don’t get the help they need and then something terrible happens. “ – Dr. Kat Kaeni of Mom and Mind Podcast

This world is full of suffering.  Please be kind.  Let’s just support each other through the next obstacle and simply allow ourselves to show up with empathy.

Resources:
Postpartum Support International is a wealth of knowledge, warmline for immediate need and can connect you to individual supports in your state: Postpartum.net / 1-800-944-4773 (or TEXT: 503-894-9453)
PSI -PA (Allegheny County) Consultation to obtain a more through list of individual providers and supports for perinatal mental health in Allegheny County. jodie.hnatkovich@gmail.com / 412-605-4211 (texting compatible)

RESOLVE Crisis Network 24-hour crisis hotline (Allegheny County): 888.796.8226

Jerimiah’s Place is Pittsburgh only respite nursery for families: http://jeremiahsplace.org/

Healthy Start is aimed at improving maternal and child health Allegheny County: https://www.healthystartpittsburgh.org/ / 412-247-4009

Allegheny Link: A central referral line for services available to support families in Allegheny County, from home visits to breastfeeding support.  Available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 1-866-730-2368

Hospital Systems: 
Magee Women’s Hospital – Women’s Behavioral Health
WPIC Call Center (412.624.1000) – when calling call center, explain situation and ask for first available appointment
Mom and Baby IOP at Wexford location: 412-246-5600 – opt 1

Allegheny Health Network Women’s Behavioral Health – West Penn Hospital
Mom and Baby IOP and outpatient facilities
412-578-4030

St. Clair Hospital
St. Clair Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Mental Health: 412.942.4800

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