10 Mothers Who Lost The Battle to Postpartum Depression

Everyday, mothers battle against postpartum depression.  And like with any war, there will be some casualties along the way.

It’s hard to ignore the tragic stories we see in headlines of women who have hurt themselves and/or their children.  They are the stories that tend to hit us the hardest.

How could a mother – known for characteristics of loving and protecting her children – do such unimaginable things to them?  We hug our own children close, unable to even think of doing something like that.  She must be a monster, we exclaim!

And we’re not wrong, only a monster would do such a thing.  Mothers with postpartum depression battle against the monster inside their own minds everyday.  But they don’t always win.

These 10 women made headlines when they lost the battle to postpartum depression.

***WARNING*** This post contains graphic details about true stories pertaining to suicide and infanticide, which some may find particularly disturbing.  If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please click here to find a list of support numbers.

10 Mothers Who Lost the Battle to Postpartum Depression
This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

10 Mothers Who Lost the Battle to Postpartum Depression

10 Mothers Who Lost the Battle to Postpartum Depression

10 Mothers Who Lost the Battle to Postpartum Depression

Andrea Yates

She is perhaps the most infamous mother who lost the battle to postpartum depression.  Andrea Yates’s battle against postpartum depression was a lengthy one with a tragic ending.  Not only did she have a history of depression and eating disorders as a teen, but she also attempted suicide a few times in the early stages of her postpartum depression.

Unlike many cases of postpartum depression, she received plenty of care, including various different drugs, several hospitalizations and regular appointments with a psychiatrist.  Despite all of the interventions, she continued to suffer from postpartum depression, psychosis and schizophrenia, which worsened after the birth of her fifth child.

Andrea lost the battle to postpartum depression the day that she drowned all five of her children in the bathtub.

It was clear to everyone, including the courts, that she suffered from a mental illness, but maternal mental health was not as widely understood at the time and the law could not protect her.  Initially she was sentenced to prison in 2001.  But after five years, she was moved to a high security mental hospital, and then a year later, into a low security mental hospital where she now remains.

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Lisa Gibson

This story strikes home for me…  literally.  Lisa Gibson was a woman from my own hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  Her story is what inspired me to speak up about my own postpartum depression battle.

I remember watching the news on that Wednesday morning when the children were found dead and their mother was missing.  I hoped and prayed that she would be found alive as reports came in of a woman in pajamas wandering around near the river.

The Saturday morning that her body was found, part of me felt relieved.  I was truly hoping that she would be found alive, but I also knew that her nightmare was now over.  Lisa Gibson lost the battle to postpartum depression and took her children down with her.  But her struggle inspired me, and hopefully many others, to fight even harder to win.

Postpartum Depression Resources in Canada 1

Jenny Gibbs Bankston

Jenny’s Light is a non-profit postpartum depression foundation that was built after the tragic deaths of Jenny and Graham Gibbs Bankston in 2007.

Jenny’s closest support system had no idea that she was suffering from any type of mood disorder in the 6 weeks following the birth of her son.  It wasn’t until she, very suddenly and without warning, purchased a gun and shot both herself and her newborn son in her own backyard, that they realized something had gone very wrong.

Her family now runs the foundation to help provide women with support, resources and information about postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, in an effort to help save others from experiencing the same tragedy.

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Charlene Ventanilla

It was a short couple of months after the birth of her son when Charlene Ventanilla lost the battle to postpartum depression.  She was found by her husband on her two year old’s toddler bed shortly after stabbing her 8 week baby and herself to death in 2016.

In Charlene’s case, it’s stated that prescription contraceptive pills played a part in her extreme behavior and mood changes.  And since no one knows the exact cause of postpartum depression, it’s entirely possible.  Those who knew her said they had no idea how badly she was struggling, which made it much harder to accept the loss.

You can help support Charlene’s husband, Ken and their older son, Vincent on GoFundMe.

Erin Sutherland

When a tragedy occurs to a mother and baby in the first few weeks or months postpartum, it’s easy to accept postpartum depression as the cause.  However, we know that postpartum depression does not just go away, especially when left untreated.

In the 2015 case of Erin Sutherland from Scotland, she suffocated her baby when she was 10 months old.  She apparently tried to get help when her daughter was 8 months old but was told that support was not available after the first 6 months.

Erin also suffered from postpartum depression following the birth of an older child, so the fact that she had a history of it should have been even more cause for concern.  Instead, she was sentenced to 3 years in prison following a stay in a mental hospital.

Deasia Watkins

The 2015 story of Deasia Watkins is one of the most disturbing ones out there.  While suffering from postpartum psychosis, Deasia stabbed and cut off the head of her 3 month old baby girl.

Before the tragic event took place, many measures had already been taken to help protect Deasia and the baby.  She was prescribed medication and her baby was taken away from her by family services and placed in the care of her aunt.

It is said that her behavior was clearly that of a woman suffering from a mental illness.  She spoke of demons and was often seen talking to herself.  But the psychiatric evaluation she had before her trial found her competent and she was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Postpartum Intrusive Thoughts

Lisette Bamenga

This is another mother who also suffered badly from postpartum psychosis.  The 2016 story of Lisette Bamenga gives us a good idea of just how twisted postpartum psychosis can make someone.

Lisette did not just try to kill her children, she poisoned them, drowned them and then also left them in a room full of carbon monoxide.  After all of this, she tried to commit suicide herself.  She was saved but her children were not.

It’s a truly heartbreaking story of a mother who was obviously tormented by pain.  There was mention of some relationship problems, which likely exacerbated her symptoms.  She was given 8 years in prison.

Florence Leung

Running away from home.  It’s a thing I fantasized about on some of my really bad days, so I can empathize with Florence Leung, a mother from New Westminster, B.C.

On October 25 2016, she left without a trace and it took nearly 3 weeks before her body was found.  

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As a registered nurse, Florence knew about postpartum depression and anxiety and had sought treatment for it.  But none of that seemed to matter in the end, and Florence tragically lost the battle to postpartum depression.

Jennifer Mudd Houghtaling

The story of Jennifer Mudd Houghtaling is an important one to include in this list because it was not only one woman fighting the battle against postpartum depression, but an entire family.

Unlike many women who struggle in silence, Jennifer was open about her postpartum depression.  She spoke about her struggles with her siblings and mother, sought help from her doctors and was honest and open about how she was feeling with her therapists.  She tried all different kinds of medications and when her condition worsened, her sister and mother came to her aid.

Jennifer’s support system tried everything they could to help her.  They had her committed to a psychiatric ward, set up appointments with different psychiatrists and helped manage her medications.  They made sure to never leave her alone.  But despite all of their help, support and interventions, Jennifer managed to jump in front of a train and end her life.

Although Jennifer lost the battle to postpartum depression, her family continues to fight. They established the Jennifer Mudd Houghtaling Postpartum Depression Foundation in Chicago where they offer a 24 hour postpartum depression hotline (866-364-MOMS).

Naomi Knoles

One of the longest battles against postpartum depression was fought by Naomi Knoles.  Her story teaches us never to stop fighting, even when we think the battle is over.

Naomi experienced postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis after the birth of her daughter in 2003.  She suffered so badly that she attempted to take her own life, but was unsuccessful.  Still struggling, Naomi ended her daughter’s life, claiming she was trying to save her from having to grow up and deal with this horrible pain herself.

Naomi served 10 years in prison and upon her release she immediately became an advocate for postpartum depression and maternal mental health.  She volunteered with Postpartum Support International and shared her story in the popular postpartum depression documentary “When The Bough Breaks.”

It seemed as though things were looking up for Naomi.  And then, 12 years after the birth of her daughter, and two years after her release from prison, she committed suicide. 

Mental illness is not something that just disappears.  It can be managed with treatment, but for many mothers, it’s a battle they will fight their entire lives.

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If there’s one takeaway from these tragic stories, it’s that maternal mental illness is not something that should ever be taken lightly.

Mothers with postpartum depression are often told that what they are feeling is “normal” or their symptoms are brushed off.  This enables the dangerous idea that mothers have to be in much worse condition before they will be taken seriously.  But yet, postpartum depression affects nearly 600,000 women in the US each year.  This is definitely not something that we can continue to ignore.

What To Do When Postpartum Depression Makes You Suicidal

Postpartum depression, like many mental illnesses, has a way of making a woman feel suicidal. 

For a person who has never suffered from mental illness, it’s almost impossible to understand why a mother would want to abandon her children in such a way.  But a woman who has suffered from postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis or other mental illness will tell you that it’s not about that at all.

The misconception about mothers who are suicidal is that they are “giving up.” In reality, many mothers see it as a way to free their children, spouse, loved ones, etc., from the pain that they are causing.  It is the ultimate sacrifice for someone else’s happiness.

Despite what the reason is behind it – it is completely extreme and unnecessary.  Any person in their right mind would realize that.  Right mind being the key word here.

So what is a mother to do when postpartum depression makes her feel suicidal?
What to do when Postpartum Depression Makes you feel Suicidal
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

Get Treatment

Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. Do not let postpartum depression get out of hand, and don’t expect it to get better without treatment.  I realize it’s hard to ask for help, in fact, I’ve written several times about all the reasons why mothers don’t speak up about postpartum depression, so if anyone understands, it’s me.  But there’s a big difference between feeling ashamed and feeling suicidal.  If there was ever a time to speak up about postpartum depression, it’s now.

Online Cognitive Behavior Therapy
The only way to avoid suicidal thoughts and tendencies caused by postpartum depression is to begin a treatment plan.

If you think you have postpartum depression, speak to your doctor.  If your doctor is not available in the near future, or you simply don’t feel comfortable speaking to your doctor about it for whatever reason – then try contacting your local public health nurse, find a therapist or mental health center.  And if all else fails, head to an urgent care center or the ER.  But don’t give up seeking help just because your doctor isn’t available, there are so many other options available.

If you don’t get the help you need, keep looking.  It’s sad that I even need to include this as an option but it’s so common for women with postpartum depression to get brushed off by the health care system.  If you’re told that “it’s nothing” or “it’s just sleep deprivation” or “this is normal motherhood” and you truly don’t agree – then get a second opinion.

If you’ve exhausted all your options locally, then consider finding treatment online or over the telephone.  Online therapy can be extremely beneficial and convenient.  There are several other resources available online, in-home and over the phone, so there is no excuse for avoiding treatment.

The Postpartum Depression Drug | Brexanolone (Zulresso)

Value Your Life

“They would be better off without me” should be the slogan for postpartum depression considering how many women have said it, myself included.

Postpartum depression is notorious for reducing a woman’s self-esteem and sense of self worth.  This opens the door for suicidal thoughts.  To make matters worse, others often tell us things like “don’t worry, you’re a great mom” or “you should give yourself more credit” thinking that they are helping, when really, it just invalidates our feelings.

In order to see your life as worth living, you need to focus on how you feel about yourself.  

Consider all the things that you once loved about yourself, and that you will love again.  Like your ability to win arguments or make people feel comfortable around you.  Maybe it was how others came to you for fashion or relationship advice.  These are things you can look forward to again when you get the postpartum depression under control.

Make a list of some of your best qualities. Do you have the best smile? Great hair? Eyes that sparkle?  Or is it your excellent sense of humor or party planning skills?  What makes you stand out among the rest?

Think of a time that you made others laugh, or helped someone who was hurt. You have the power to affect another person’s life in a way they may never forget.  Try surrounding yourself in positive images or create a self-care sanctuary that you can escape to when you’re feeling low.

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Look at pictures of your pregnancy, some of your happiest memories, vacations or family holidays. What would those pictures look like without you in them?  There would be a big empty hole where you belong.

Scroll through old Facebook or Instagram posts and remember who you were before postpartum depression. You have changed, and it’s unlikely you will ever be the same person again.  But it helps to remember who you once were and know that your life is just as important now as it was then.

Maybe we’re not the ideal mothers we thought we would be, but no one ever is – even the ones without postpartum depression.  The truth is, our children would much rather have a sad mother around than no mother at all.

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Make a plan

No, not a suicide plan. A plan for the future. 

It’s hard to imagine a future when you’re in the depths of postpartum depression, but I promise you – it’s there.  Each climb that you take upwards out of the deep, dark pit of despair brings you closer to the light.  And if you can see the light – even if it’s just a tiny speck like a distant star in the night sky, then you can climb towards it.  That tiny speck of light is your future and the higher you climb, the closer you get to a brighter future.

Having a plan can remind you that the future does exist.

Set realistic goals with dates to achieve them by.  These can include things like finishing a book or learning a new skill.  Try to avoid putting things like weight loss on there as those are almost impossible to achieve and can be discouraging.

Make a bucket list.  What are some things that you’ve always wanted to do before you die?  It doesn’t have to be the usual big ones like skydiving or cliff-jumping.  Think of anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to do in your lifetime and put it on the list.

Create a self-care schedule.    Self-care is the latest buzz word these days, and there’s a good reason for that.  Mothers need to make time for themselves otherwise bad things like suicidal thoughts can happen.  Schedule yourself some time to take care of yourself and don’t put it off.  Postponing things just for you signal your brain that you are not as important as the other things happening around you.

Bonus: Check out the post: How to Create a Self Care Routine as a SAHM and download a free self-care workbook!

Meet with a financial adviser.  No, not to “get your affairs in order” but rather, to make a financial plan for the future.  Find out how to save and manage your money to make sure it will last.  Financial problems can cause a lot stress and suicidal behavior.  Having a financial plan for the future can help you feel more prepared for the road ahead.  You can start getting your finances organized by downloading a Finance Tracker kit from Shine Sheets.

10 Mothers Who Lost the Battle to Postpartum Depression

Avoid Triggers

Suicidal tendencies are only one of the many nasty symptoms of postpartum depression.  Women also have to deal with postpartum rage, intrusive thoughts and a whole slew of physical pain as well.  Even with a treatment plan in place, it is likely something that mothers will have to battle their entire lives.

The key to keeping postpartum depression symptoms under control is avoiding the things that trigger it, such as stress, illness, sleep deprivation or the winter blues. 

Since it’s impossible to avoid triggers 100% of the time, it’s important to follow your treatment plan and make sure you are open about what you’re feeling with your loved ones.  Recruiting help to manage your symptoms and triggers will make sure that you continue down the right path.

Postpartum Depression Triggers

Talk to Someone

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, it’s important to talk to someone about them.  When someone commits suicide, those closest to them often swear that they had no idea what they were going through.  Don’t let that be you.

You have several options for who to talk to if your postpartum depression is making you feel suicidal.  

Your closest person. This could be your spouse or partner, a sibling, friend or parent… whoever you feel the closest to and most comfortable with.  They are often the best person to tell first, because if they have been paying attention to your behavior – maybe they already suspect that someone isn’t quite right.

A therapist.  Therapists are trained to handle situations where people feel suicidal.  They know what to say and what not to say.  They also understand where the feelings stem from and won’t judge you for expressing your feelings.  Online therapy is an option worth considering if you’re worried about the trouble of finding a therapist and making appointments.

A support group.  Sometimes all we need is a sounding board and someone who can relate.  Joining a postpartum depression support group, whether in-person or online, is a safe place where we can open up about feeling suicidal and not be condemned for it.  Many mothers have been there too and will gladly give you advice or encouragement.

How To Know if Online Therapy Is The Right Choice for Moms

A crisis center.  Crisis centers are designed specifically for handling emergent situations where you feel like you have no where else to turn.  Many of them have the ability to dispatch help locally if they feel it is required (similar to calling 9-1-1).  But they will also listen to you and provide you with advice and resources.

Or – you can talk to me!  I’m here to help, after all.  I’m a stranger who doesn’t know anything at all about you except that I have once been there too, so I will never judge you, ignore you or invalidate your feelings.  In fact, I would treat you exactly the way I wished someone would have treated me when I needed them to.  I DON’T have any formal medical training but I DO have access to a lot of resources that I would be more to happy to share with you.

If you are feeling suicidal and need someone to talk to, use the confidential contact form below *

Your information will never be published or shared

*Alternatively, you can email me at vanessa@runningintriangles.com

Suicide is not a choice that a woman with postpartum depression makes, but rather something that happens to her.  It’s the result of an illness in the brain that tells us lies and forces us to attack our own bodies.  Women with postpartum depression are exhausted, chemically imbalanced, overwhelmed and in physical pain, so when the brain sneaks in and whispers “just end it” – it sounds like a good idea at the time.

I hope, with every fiber in my being, that you find your true worth and value, remember that you are loved and cherished and know that suicide is not the best option.

National Crisis Support Numbers for Postpartum Moms
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