Dedicated mom spent nine years working to pass ‘Melanie’s law’
May 21, 2010 | By Lisa Pevtzow, Special to the Tribune
Carol Blocker finally has a measure of peace.
After nine years of working tirelessly to raise awareness of postpartum depression and psychosis, the bill known as “Melanie’s law” was quietly passed in Congress. The law is named after Blocker’s daughter, Melanie Stokes, who committed suicide in 2001, three months after giving birth to her daughter.
“I walked and begged and pleaded to get this bill passed,” said Blocker, who said she was driven by love for her daughter and anger at a system that failed her. Blocker has also become a one-woman support system for other women suffering from postpartum illnesses, including many in prison whose families no longer speak to them.
“I couldn’t save my daughter, and I will never get over her death, but this (law) will save someone else’s daughter’s life.”
The law, which was passed in March but announced at a news conference earlier this month, appropriates $3 million for education and research into postpartum depression. It also requires the federal Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study looking into the benefits of screening women for postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Is Common
At least 15 to 20 percent of women who give birth are believed to suffer from postpartum depression, said Sarah Allen, director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance of Illinois and a psychologist in Northbrook specializing in postpartum depression.
In the years since Stokes’ death, there has been more awareness of postpartum depression and psychosis and many hospitals are screening new mothers, Allen said. The Illinois Perinatal Mental Health Project at UIC, for instance, helps health care providers throughout the state diagnose and treat depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after.
Men Suffer from Postpartum Depression Too
And women are not alone. A study published in the May 19 Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that a significant number of new fathers also suffer from postpartum depression.
PPMD Awareness Month
Gov. Patrick Quinn has proclaimed May Postpartum Mood Disorders Awareness Month, but many populations, particularly low income, lack access to services for the condition.