I feel a bit sad this weekend on hearing of the news of a mother who took her own life and that of her baby’s a few days postpartum, in Bristol, in the UK. All life is precious, and any life lost is sad, but this double tragedy is close to heart as the hospital she walked out of in her slippers was one that I had worked in as a midwife from 1995-2000. She must have been in such a terrible, unreachable place to have done what she did. She is at peace now, but it leaves all those left behind with a big gaping hole in their lives that they will have to learn to live with.
It said in the news that she had a history of schizophrenia and depression, and some of the tabloids said she was afraid that the social services would take the baby from her. These allegations have yet to be proven. Whatever the reason, two lives were lost tragically.
It must be so difficult to have a history of mental illness hanging over you when you decide to start a family. Difficult that you feel like society and the authorities are judging your capability to bring up your children safely. Mental illness remains such a stigma in society. Need this really be? With proper care and support from the multi-disciplinary healthcare team antenatally followed by careful observation in this postnatal period, could this have been prevented? I don’t have the answer, but this was a case that slipped through the net, which is very unfortunate and sad.
Some papers have been saying that recent cuts to the NHS in recent years, have left many maternity units short-staffed and maybe this contributed to some oversight, which in turn contributed to this tragedy. I myself know what it’s like to work in a unit that is short-staffed. You try your best to cover everything and see to everyone, but it’s nigh on impossible at times. You prioritize as that is all you can do, and thank goodness, almost all of the time, everything goes to plan, and nothing amiss happens. You leave your shift shattered, but feeling good that you did and gave your best to your clients that day.
I know the hospital I worked in was a great hospital and feel for all my ex-colleagues. The coming weeks will be difficult, with investigations going on, trying to discover how this could have happened. This can only be viewed positively, in order to learn from this tragedy and to prevent further tragedies of this sort happening again. I know when I worked in that hospital that it had a no blame culture, and I hope this still exists, as blaming is negative and does not help improve anything.
For whatever it’s worth I am sending out a virtual hug to all my ex-colleagues that work at this hospital.