Tragedy at the Capitol

When The New York Times send out the alert "Shooter at the Capitol building" yesterday, I can't be the only one who expected news of more senseless gun violence.  At the end of the day, there was gun violence, but not in the way that we expected. 

Miriam Carey, age 34 and a new mother, was shot and killed by Washington DC police officers after her car got stuck on a median.  She had attempted to drive through a barrier at the White House and led police on a high speed chase down Capitol Avenue. She had her 1 year old in the car with her who was unharmed.  Questions of why a 34 year old woman from Connecticut would be in Washington DC attempting to harm the President immediately surfaced.  We heard the next day that her mother said that her daughter had suffered from post-partum depression and had been hospitalized.  Later stories confirmed this report and added the fact that Ms. Carey had suffered from mental health problems in the past.

 While there are many facts about Ms. Carey and her motivations that remain unknown at this point, I feel inclined to point out what we do know:

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  • We know that new mothers who have had mental health issues in their past are more prone to post-partum depression than other new mothers (_Depression in New Mothers_Kathleen Kendall-TackettP. 93-94).  
  • We also know that African Americans are less likely to be given accurate diagnoses than whites
  • Post-partum depression can surface at any point during the first year, post-partum (_Depression in New Mothers_, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett P.6).  It is commonly assumed that post-partum depression is an occurrence that happens within the first few weeks, or months, of having a new baby.  That can be the case but it isn't always.

Clearly, Miriam Carey was troubled.  Thankfully her child is alive but at what cost?   A mother gone before she had a chance to know her.  But it's also important to keep in mind that Ms. Carey's death could have been prevented.  

How? 

  1. We need better screening for post-partum depression and better follow-up for those who have been diagnosed. 
  2. We also need adequate mental health services in this country.  No matter if you are white, black, rich or poor.  If you have a mental illness, you should be able to get treatment.  No matter what.  
  3. And finally, we need to support all new moms better.  I've argued before that we must have social systems in place to provide resources, support and hands-on help to new moms.  

Being a new mom is hard enough.  Let this death not go unnoticed.  Rest in peace, Miriam Carey.  May you finally be safe and at peace.

Posted on October 4, 2013 and filed under Post-partum depression.