Katherine Stone wrote a wonderful, candid and important post on her blog, Postpartum Progress. It’s one that’s important for all women with severe PPD must read but also, one that clinicians should read.
She’s right. There’s no great place to hospitalize new mothers who are having thoughts of suicide. Many of us who specialize in this area have spent years fantasizing and strategizing about finding or creating that space. We envision that sanctuary — where new mothers could recuperate surrounded by loving professional caretakers and, perhaps, other suffering mothers — Feed them, hold them, stabilize them, help them heal, then return them as quickly as possible to the arms of their families.
Sounds good. Unfortunately we are working within a system that doesn’t work that way and the point Katherine makes is that we must surrender to that system when circumstances and symptoms compel us to — because it works. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it works. Katherine states the bottom line: it is to keep women safe. And that’s what we all want.
Note to clinicians: One of the best things clinicians can do to help minimize the sting of the experience is to act as a liaison when a client is hospitalized: Obtain permission to visit, consult with the hospital staff, stay in touch with her treating psychiatrist and social worker, let them know who you are and that you are acting on behalf of her best interests. Most importantly, let your client know you are there and will help keep an eye on things and that you understand how bad this might feel but that it’s essential at this time. And finally, as Katherine points out, tell her what she may not be able understand or believe at this time –Tell her it will help for her to be there and that she will feel better again.