Postpartum Depression & Parity Legislation Deadline


Jul 25 2001

In Houston, Texas last month, Andrea Yates drowned her five small children in the bathtub of their home. In Chicago over the past two months, four new mothers have committed suicide. Each mother suffered from postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression occurs in 10% to 15% of women within three months of delivery. One out of every thousand women experiences postpartum psychosis: a medical emergency in which a mother may harm herself and/or her baby. By one estimate, as many as 200 infants are killed each year, and many more suicides are committed.

On July 15, 2001, The Seattle Times published "A New Mother's Cry for Help", the story of Martha Silano, who was hospitalized for postpartum depression, only to discover that her health care insurance plan limited coverage for psychiatric illnesses. She and her husband were forced to deplete savings and use money from parents to pay for a month-long hospitalization, continued therapy, and medication. In the words of Langdon Cook, Martha's husband, such limits are "anti-woman, anti-child and anti-family." For anyone, insurance discrimination puts lives at risk.

Under S.543, discrimination against mental illnesses like postpartum depression would be prohibited. Introduced by U.S. Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN) to strengthen existing federal law, the bill faces an October 1, 2001 deadline when current law expires.

NAMI commends The Seattle Times for its coverage. As the legislative deadline approaches, NAMI also stands ready to work with you to develop other stories on the issue.