By Seth Freed Wessler, Special to ProPublica
This story was originally published on ProPublica and was co-published with The Daily Beast.
In August 2009, Mindi, a 25-year-old struggling new parent, experienced what doctors later concluded was a psychotic episode. She had been staying in a cousin’s spare basement room in De Soto, Kan., while trying get on her feet after an unexpected pregnancy and an abusive relationship. She’d been depressed since her daughter was born and was becoming increasingly distrustful of her relatives.
Isolated, broke and scared, one Saturday morning, she cracked. She woke to change her 5-month-old daughter’s diaper. When Mindi looked down, she believed the baby’s genitals had been torn.
Mindi’s mind raced for an explanation. The one she came to? That her baby had been raped the night before; that someone—she did not know who—had put sedatives in the air vents.
Mindi called her pediatrician’s office. A receptionist told her to take her daughter to a children’s hospital in nearby in Kansas City, Mo. Doctors there found no evidence that the girl had been harmed or that any of what Mindi claimed had actually happened. Continue reading
From the Duffy’s Napa Valley Rehab blog -
Addiction is hard—we all know that. But as a mother, going through an addiction means your baby girl or little boy goes through it with you.
The documentary, On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery tells the gripping stories of five mothers battling addiction while trying to care for their children. Since its premiere in April, the film has been the official selection at three major recovery film festivals including the REEL Recovery Film Festival in San Francisco Bay Area Edition.
Artist, Sculptor, and the director/producer of the documentary Sheila Ganz, sat down with us for a few minutes to answer questions about the film. Before jumping into the Q&A, here’s a brief synopsis.
About On Life Terms: Mothers in Recovery
The film takes you on the three year journey of mothers recovering at Center Point, Inc., a women and children’s residential treatment program in San Rafael, California. The palpable stories of the mothers de-stigmatizes addiction and promotes the discussion of treatment vs. incarceration (leaning heavily towards treatment, of course).
The trailer accurately portrays what the full 56 minute film is all about. Continue reading
Every Mother Counts - 5/27/14
Maternal Mental Health is more than the absence of mental illness.
Mental illness pervades news stories on a tragically regular basis when we read about violent individuals so ill they can only see the world as a frightening, hostile place. But these situations fail to represent the real magnitude that mental illness takes on society. Far more often, people with mental illness suffer in silence, with very little attention paid to the impact their illness makes on their lives and families. When it comes to maternal mental illness, we know that about 20% of pregnant and newly delivered mothers will suffer from a maternal mental health disorder. We read about mothers with “simple” cases of baby blues and mothers who become manic or incapacitated with depression as a result of hormonal imbalance and extreme sleep deprivation. We hear about mothers so floored with mental illness they attempt and often succeed in harming their babies, children or them selves to prevent them from living what they see as horrifying lives. We read a lot about individuals who suffer with mental illness, but far too little about systems of support created to help them; even less about what it takes to create mental health.
We think of maternal mental illness as something that only happens shortly after birth, but a new study conducted in Australia indicates that motherhood’s impact on a woman’s mental and emotional stability is far more long lasting than previously thought. In fact, their data suggests that more mothers are depressed during their child’s fourth year than even during the oh-so-challenging first. The conditions that seem to set women up for depression during year four are previous reports of depressive symptoms either in early pregnancy or in the first 12 months after childbirth, young maternal age (18-24 years), stressful life events/social adversity in the year prior to the four year follow-up, intimate partner violence, and low income. The study concluded with recommendations that mothers be followed more closely and for longer periods of time to observe for symptoms of mental illness and they reinforced the need for a greater focus on mental health. Continue reading
Review by Scott Stevens, Author, “Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud” www.alcohologist.com
My recent appearance at the REEL Recovery Film Festival in San Francisco coincided with the world premier of the documentary “On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery.” I met filmmaker, Sheila Ganz, afterward and have nothing but the greatest admiration for the work she has done. This is a gripping one-hour that’s a MUST SEE film on women facing tough odds with an eye on reuniting their families after facing their addictions.
Sheila follows five new moms facing legal challenges and the removal of their children in a criminal justice system too often known for heavy-handedness and mistreatment, rather than compassion and treatment. The film follows the mothers through gut-wrenching stories, tears, reluctant acceptance, then growth into their “aha” moments… through the years following their program commitment and reuniting with their children. There’s also the draw of old relationships and the pull of old ways of thinking and resentments, even months and years after the moms get clean and sober. Those moments I believe were intentionally left in the final cut to prove that all of us are recovering, not cured. I covered my eyes, telling the screen, “DON’T DO IT.”
And all this is VERY well done. Continue reading
Tennessee Ignores Experts, Advocates, Passes Measure Harmful to Babies & Families
Contact: Cherisse Scott, CEO, SisterReach; Communications Chair, Healthy & Free TN, 901.310.5488
Contact: Farah Diaz-Tello, Staff Attorney, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, 212.255.9252
April 29, 2014 — With Governor Bill Haslam’s signature of the Pregnancy Criminalization Law, SB 1391, Tennessee has become the first state to ignore the warnings of medical and public health experts to pass a law criminalizing pregnancy outcomes.
A coalition of groups that worked to oppose the bill when it was before the General Assembly rallied support for a veto nationally and internationally. A petition circulated by SisterReach, Healthy and Free Tennessee, National Advocates for Pregnant Women with RH Reality Check gathered over 11,000 signatures, which were hand-delivered to the Governor’s office last Friday, along with a letter from over 25 organizations dedicated to ensuring all families have access to the health care they need. Experts such as International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policy, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Perinatal Association sent letters to Governor Haslam asking him to protect the health of Tennessee families by vetoing the Pregnancy Criminalization Law. Continue reading
New York, NY – On Friday, April 18, 2014, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a 8-1 decision in Ex Parte Hicks upholding the conviction of Sara Hicks, who gave birth to a healthy baby who tested positive for cocaine in 2008. This decision affirmed the Court’s prior ruling in Ex Parte Ankrom, holding that that the plain meaning of the word “child” in the Alabama law unambiguously includes fertilized eggs and that pregnant women may be arrested for using a controlled substance while pregnant. In response, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) released a statement from founder and executive director Lynn Paltrow:
“It is very unusual for a state supreme court to take a case to address a settled issue of law. It appears that the court accepted the Hicks case for the purpose of more fully articulating a view that pregnant women are proper subjects of Alabama’s criminal justice system and a growing state and national system of mass incarceration. Continue reading
April 4, 2014 contact: National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Laura Huss: email@example.com
Yesterday, April 3, 2014, Mississippi Lowndes County Circuit Judge, Jim Kitchens, dismissed the murder charge against Rennie Gibbs. Ms. Gibbs, now 24, was charged with “depraved heart” murder after experiencing a stillbirth at 36 weeks of pregnancy. She was then only 16 years old. Relying on the medical examiner’s report in Ms. Gibbs’ case, the prosecutor claimed — without scientific support — that the stillbirth was caused by her cocaine use.
“We are pleased the murder charge was dismissed,” said Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, Mississippi Defense Counsel. “We will have further discussions in the coming weeks with the District Attorney’s office in an effort to persuade them not to indict Ms. Gibbs for manslaughter or any other crime.” McDuff added, “In our view, neither the law nor the evidence justify prosecuting this young woman, who was a teenager at the time, and we hope this is the end of it. But if further charges are brought, we will return to court in her defense.” Continue reading