Moms and Children Are Still Dying: It’s time for everyone to get involved

I just hung up the phone with Randy Turner, reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press. Last week he wrote this piece, on the disappearance of 32-year old Lisa Gibson and the death of her two children, 2 year old Anna and 3 month old Nicholas.  On Friday, the news turned even more tragic when they found Lisa’s body in the river.

It’s so awful.

And hard for most everyone to comprehend.

When speaking with Mr. Turner, I was impressed with his perceptive questions and probing dialogue, in an effort to understand and hopefully, to educate. There is such troubling sadness when it comes to these stories that grip the headlines, it can be difficult to focus on what needs to be said.  He raised the very poignant question of whether reporting on these tragedies makes things better or worse regarding the public awareness of postpartum illnesses. He asked me whether this helps, in the long run, or does it just scare women deeper into silence?

That’s a very good question.

I do not know the specifics that led to this devastating end.  I do not know what Lisa’s symptoms were, or what her diagnosis was, or what could or could not have been done to make a difference here.

But I do know that each and every time these tragedies occur, I become outraged at the failure of healthcare providers to ask the right questions and equally discouraged by the powerful resistance that fuels a postpartum woman’s failure to disclose.  How do we finally reconcile this so no more children have to die? So no more mothers have to die? How to we help families become more aware, more tuned in to the subtle changes, the signs, the red flags? How do we inform new mothers that they have to be mindful without scaring the hell of them? How do we treat psychosis when we don’t always see it? Or understand it?

Perhaps the best we can do is to inform and enlighten ALL parties involved. That includes ALL healthcare providers and ALL family members, not just mom. Depression and psychosis are family matters.  Partners, grandparents, friends, neighbors, siblings of the mother, all need to keep their eyes open.

  • How does she look?
  • How does she sound?
  • Is she saying or doing anything unusual?
  • Are you particularly worried about her behavior?
  • IF SOMETHING DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT, it’s time to get help.

Sometimes, terrible things happen, that we can do nothing about. I do not know if any intervention would have saved Lisa and her children. But I would like to think, if we all continue to be vigilant and compassionate, we can do our best to save more lives.

Here’s to you, Lisa, and sweet Anna and Nicholas…

I’m sorry that those of us who work so hard to help make a difference have still let you down. We will not stop fighting.







For more information, see our ER Guidelines for Postpartum Psychosis Screening


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