A bereaved family claims the system failed an 18-year-old girl who committed suicide while battling postpartum depression (PPD). Shaciara McDowell had recently given birth to her second child when a wave of despair overcame her, leading to a tragic end. To honor her memory, her family is now speaking out to raise awareness of the illness.
The Northern Ireland mom welcomed her newborn son, Cáhir, on Tuesday, August 4. Pictures from that day show a beaming McDowell and her partner, Cory-Lee Brett, cradling the newborn.
However, family members said that within three weeks, McDowell began to experience symptoms of PPD.
“For a lot of women, it doesn’t appear until about three or four months,” said McDowell’s mother, Muriel. “With her it was very fast.”
Previous Struggles with Postpartum Depression
McDowell’s sister Vanessa told Belfast Live that the same had happened after McDowell had her first baby, 1-year-old daughter Éire.
“She also suffered with post-natal depression with her first child and it, too, set in quick, and I think that is what’s most upsetting,” she said. “The system knew she suffered the first time and they should have just been there a lot more for her second time around.”
Following baby Cáhir’s birth, McDowell sought help once again and received a prescription for anti-depressants. However, the medication had little effect according to her mother.
“The first time she was offered the right help, this time she was not,” said Muriel. “It was very disappointing to be honest. Nothing much was put in place.”
Muriel also believes her daughter, like many new mothers, felt obligated to maintain a brave front.
“I think children buy into that, and women buy into that, and then they feel they can’t tell somebody that they really can’t cope,” she said. “‘I can’t tell anyone I have anxiety; I can’t tell anyone about the intrusive thoughts or bad mental health.’ That’s hard to say because they’ll think the person they are telling this to will think they are a failure.”
McDowell tragically succumbed to her depression on September 7. Since then, friends of her family have set up a GoFundMe page to support the grieving family.
Battling the Stigma
Shaciara McDowell passed away on Monday 5 wks after giving birth to her 2nd baby.— Patricia Devlin (@trishdevlin) September 13, 2020
Her mum Muriel says she was suffering from post-natal depression and did not get the right support.
“I think the whole system fails women in that situation. It failed my daughter” @WorldNorthern pic.twitter.com/k6bWaNa5Kx
Meanwhile, her mother feels that more could have been done, both for her daughter and for all women suffering from PPD.
“I think the whole system fails young girls and women in that situation,” she said. “It failed my daughter.”
Going forward, Muriel aims to help remove stigmas surrounding PPD, helping new mothers avoid her daughter’s tragic fate.
“My message is, do not sit and suffer in your own silence,” she said. “I feel that from talking to a lot of people over the last few days, people who have come to Shaciara’s wake, they felt that you shouldn’t take medication. It is very taboo, it’s seen as a weakness. But that is wrong. […] This is normal, it is hormonal, it is an illness, not a weakness. And it can be treated.”