The MOTHERS Act: Read it for yourself

Mom and infantI’ve written about the MOTHERS Act in the past but recently there has been much debate swirling around it. There are those actively against it (Amy Philo, Doug Bremner) and those actively for it (Katherine Stone, John Grohol). I’m going to refrain from voicing my personal opinion on the act from here on out since I’m seeing tensions run rather high and I don’t care to have those tensions directed at me.

But I haven’t seen anyone link to the Congressional bill recently so before engaging in debate, I encourage people to read the actual bill for themselves and come to their own conclusions. It’s actually short (unlike our current 1,000-plus-page universal healthcare bill) and a relatively easy (see “understandable”) read.

S. 324 the most recent version I know of. If there’s a more recent version, please comment to let me know.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

ReadWriteWeb reports Stony Brook University researchers discovered too much exposure to “texting, instant messaging, and social networking” can make teenage girls more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. This landmark discovery sampled a whopping 83 teenage girls.

computer useThe results of their tests, recently published in The Journal of Adolescence, showed that the girls who excessively talked with their friends about their issues had significantly higher levels of depression. Today’s online tools provide even more ways for this to occur. Says Dr. Davila, “Texting, instant messaging and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious, which can lead to depression.”

The problem with these electronic tools du jour is that they allowed the girls to discuss the same problems over and over again. This caused them to get stuck obsessing over a particular emotional setback, unable to move forward.

–snip–

It’s not necessarily the medium through which the chatter tasks place that’s the issue – it’s the amount of discussion that leads to the feelings of depression. Said Dr. Davila, “[The girls] often don’t realize that excessive talking is actually making them feel worse.”

So we can conclude then that keeping your teenage daughter from MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, AIM, and texting will help improve her mental health so she’s less likely to be depressed. Back in the day, I just wrote morbid poetry in a sad, lonely marble notebook. Alas, those days are gone. (pic via reviews-for-you.com)

On a related note, another study has discovered that teens who watch TV for long periods of time are more likely to be depressed. (Does nearly everything cause an increased risk of depression these days?) The study tracked over 4,000 teenagers and their TV-watching habits. The conclusion? Seven years later, participants were more likely to be depressed and the risk increase with each hour of television exposure. Perhaps it’s because TV creates an unrealistic perception of how a person should look and act and how life should be. Although researchers of the study did note that exposure to electronic media yielded the same result.

PregnantOn the Christian tip, I need to once again dispel this nasty rumor that the MOTHERS Act is intent on drugging pregnant women (and thereby the baby) to oblivion. (I addressed this issue around this time last year once again from Christians who think some left-wing liberal nuts are out to “indoctrinate hundreds of thousands of mothers into taking dangerous psych drugs.”) Once again, I need to repost the goal of the MOTHERS Act as stated in the original bill:

To ensure that new mothers and their families are educated about postpartum depression, screened for symptoms, and provided with essential services, and to increase research at the National Institutes of Health on postpartum depression.

The legislation is only intended to increase the resources for screening of mental issues in women. Women will NOT be forced to take medication if they do not want it.

In the Congressional findings, medication is mentioned only as a form of treating PPD. That’s not directly encouraging new moms to take drugs; it’s encouraging them to seek treatment, whether it be therapy or some other course. Not every new mom will need therapy, hospitalization, or medication, and this bill is far from attempting to “indoctrinate” moms with psych drugs. Also, the bill only mentions “medication” once. It does not even use the word “drug.”

It’s unfortunate to hear stories of women who suffered miscarriages or acted erratically as a result of medication. However, postpartum depression has become such a prevalent issue that proper screening — not necessarily medication — is needed. And the mother in conjunction with her doctor must make an informed and appropriate decision on how to proceed with treating her mental health. A great resource on the MOTHERS Act can be found at Postpartum Progress where blogger Katherine Stone vigilantly monitors the progress of this bill and clearly lays out what the bill entails:

  • Encouraging Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate and continue research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and find treatments for, postpartum conditions.
  • Encouraging a National Public Awareness Campaign, to be administered by HHS, to increase awareness and knowledge of postpartum depression and psychosis.
  • Requiring the Secretary of HHS to conduct a study on the benefits of screening for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
  • Creating a grant program to public or nonprofit private entities to deliver or enhance outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for individuals with or at risk for postpartum conditions.  Activities may also include providing education about postpartum conditions to new mothers and their families, including symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources, in order to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Although a vote on the act was blocked in the Senate in September, Sen. Robert Menendez of NJ has reintroduced the bill, championing the cause for PPD awareness at the federal level.

And on a humorous note, if you are single and mentally ill, you can go to TrueAcceptance.com and find someone who suffers from mental illness just like you. That’s right, TrueAcceptance matches the mentally ill with… the mentally ill. The premise is based on the idea that matching people who both suffer from mental illness are more likely to understand and support each other. The idea amuses me but I’d be too afraid that being with someone else who suffers from mental illness would end up being an enabler. (via Fox News)

More Famous People With Mental Illness

The local NAMI chapter has literature all over a counter at my local library. One of the pieces of literature actually was a 5×7 index card with a list of famous people who struggled with mental illness. It was kind of interesting so I figured I’d share it. Some I’d already known about; others were a bit of a surprise. How did they figure out who had bipolar disorder back in the 1800s?

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Analysis of "Depression: Out of the Shadows"


The show is essentially Depression 101 – for those new to learning
about the illness.
As someone who struggles with depression (within
bipolar disorder), I found a lot of the two hours pretty boring (90
minutes on personal stories and about 22 minutes for "candid
conversation"). The "a lot" comes from the stuff that I've either heard before or flies over my head, eg, how depression affects the brain, prefrontal cortex, neurotransmitters, synapses, etc. The personal stories were powerful: depressingly heartwarming. (Yes, I mean that.)

My heart sank as I heard the stories of Emma and Hart, teenagers who were diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, respectively. Both were such extreme cases that they needed to be sent away for special psychiatric care. They are on medications for their disorders; the specific drugs are never mentioned.

While watching Deana's story of treatment-resistant depression, I instantly thought of Herb of VNSDepression.com whose wife suffers from the same malady.

I tried to listen attentively for the antidepressant that Ellie, who suffered from PPD after the birth of her first child, would be taking during her next pregnancy. It was never mentioned.

My jaw nearly dropped to the carpet as Andrew Solomon, carefully plucked brightly colored pills from his pillbox that he takes every morning for his unipolar depression: Remeron, Zoloft, Zyprexa, Wellbutrin, Namenda, Ranitidine, and two kinds of fish oil. He might have even mentioned Prozac. He takes Namenda, an Alzheimer's drug to combat the effects of an adverse interaction between Wellbutrin and one of the other drugs that I can't remember. Solomon says he's happy. I'm happy for him and I'm happy that his drug cocktail works for him but I couldn't help but sit there and wonder, "Isn't there a better way?"

While I thought the stories covered the gamut, in retrospect, I'm surprised they didn't interview a veteran or U.S. soldier to discuss PTSD. If the producers were able to fit in dysthymia, I'm sure they might have been able to throw in a story about a soldier who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts stemming out of PTSD. Considering all the stories coming out of the VA, it's rather relevant. It would have been more interesting than the Jane Pauley segment. But I'll get to that in a minute.

As I listened to the narrator, I couldn't help but wonder what alternate perspectives could have popped up. For what it was, I fear none. This was a Depression 101 show — a program designed to either get people to fight against fear and stigma and get help or to open the eyes of loved ones to this debilitating disorder. I'm not sure how to slip in an opposing view on medication from a doctor without confusing or scaring people away. What would Healy or Breggin say that would encourage people to seek appropriate care?

Holistic or natural treatment was not mentioned. It's not mainstream and it's not recommended by most doctors as first-line therapy. I would have been surprised had something been said about it.

The depression portion of bipolar disorder was briefly discussed in Hart's story then Pauley added commentary about her personal experience in the remaining 22 minutes of the program.

Pauley appears at the end of the show promising a "candid conversation" on the topic. The three experts: Drs. Charney, Duckworth, and Primm sit and smile politely as Pauley rattles on occasionally about herself. Some people might find her exchange endearing and personal. After the first 3 minutes, I found it annoying. As a journalist, I wish she would have taken the impartial observer approach rather than the "intimate discussion" approach. In my opinion, she seemed to have dominated the "discussion."

It ended up being a Q&A with each doctor. Her questions were focused and direct. I expected a little bit of an exchange between doctors, talking not only about the pros of medication and treatment like ECT and VNS but also the cons. (Should I apologize for being optimistic?) Charney interjected into the conversation maybe once or twice but was only to offer an assenting opinion. Primm spoke least of everyone on the panel. I think she was placed on the show solely to represent diversity.

There were no "a recent study said…" or "critics say such-and-such, how do you address that?" It was a straightforward emphasis on encouraging people to get help or for those suffering to get treatment. Pauley's segment didn't discuss any negatives (not with the medical director of NAMI there!). The closest the entire 2 hours gets to any cons is with ECT shock treatment and giving medication to growing children. The childhood medication thing isn't dwelt on. The basic gist is: Doctors don't understand how medication works in children but are working on trying to understand it and improve its efficacy.

Forgive me for being negative. The point of the program was designed to give hope to those suffering. Instead, it just made me feel even worse. Thoughts raced through my head: "Well, if this doesn't work, then it's on to that. And if that medication doesn't work then I'll probably be prescribed this therapy, and if that doesn't work, then I'm treatment-resistant at which point, I'll have to do…"

I hope the program does what it's designed to do and that's to get those suffering with depression to seek appropriate care. The one upside is that talk therapy was stressed. I'm a huge proponent of talk therapy myself. Let me know what you thought of the show if you were able to catch it.

In the meantime, this depressed girl is going to cure herself for the night by going to bed.

P.S. Is it really fact that depression is a disease?

Depression: Out of the Shadows: Live Blogging

I’m on EST so I’m watching the Depression PBS show. I’ll be live blogging about it because I have nothing better to do with my life. Probably no interesting observations but, like I said, I have nothing better to do right now.

UPDATE: Jane Pauley doesn’t appear until 10.25.

9.07 pm – Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon is sharing his story about his bout of depression. It doesn’t help that his mother, who suffered from a terminal illness, chose to end her life.

9.09 – Dr. Myrna Weissman says that depression "is a biological disorder. It’s not all in your head."

9.12 – The show highlights an adolescent named Emma who’s been struggling with depression since 5th grade. She began "acting out" as a form of self-medication. She ended up going to to an out-of-state psychiatric hospital.

9.15 – Cut to an adolescent male, Hart, who has been suffering from depression since 6th grade. After going to a hospital, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

9.19 – Jed, a 20-year-old college student killed himself supposedly from undiagnosed depression. Dr. Thomas Insel says that suicide is almost twice as common as homicide in the United States.

9.21 – Drs. Geed(?) and Casey at NAMI are using MRI to further research in adolescent depression. An explanation on the neurochemical brain functions in adolescent depression follows.

9.25 – A narrative on postpartum depression begins. Ellie’s husband videotaped Ellie with the baby, Graham, shortly after his birth, and you could see the unhappiness of postpartum of depression on her face. In the homemade video, she holds her child while saying that she had suicidal thoughts the day before and wanted to die because she "couldn’t do this" anymore.

9.29 – Cut to Shep Nuland, author of Lost In America, and explains the circumstances that led to his depression.

9.32 – Dashaun, a member of the Bloods gang, suffered from early life trauma that led to his bouts of depression.

This probably goes without saying but so far, the program is replete with different doctors, none of which appear in segments other than the first one they were featured in.

9.37 – "When you gang bang, it’s just a form of suicide."

9.38 – Segue to Terrie Williams who not only helped Dashaun write his story and helped him recover from his depression, but also suffers from a mild form of depression, dysthymia. Dysthymia is estimated to affect 10-15 million Americans. One of the symptoms is overeating.

9.40 – Williams mentions that stigma of mental illness in the African American community prevents African Americans from seeking treatment.

9.41 – Philip Burguieres(?), a former CEO, suffers from depression and discusses the stigma of mental illness in corporate America.

They’re really covering the whole gamut.

The hubby is getting frustrated because the segments are really just that – segments and they never fully finish anyone’s story but jump back and forth.

9.45 – Back to Andrew Solomon from the beginning of the show. He’s currently taking Remeron, Zoloft, ZYprexa, Wellbutrin, Nemenda(? an alzheimer’s drug), Ranantadine(?), two kinds of fish oil. HOLY CRAP. (I think he’s also on Prozac but don’t hold me to that.)

9.47 – We’re being walked through the neurotransmitter explanation.

9.48 – Poor Andrew thinks he wouldn’t be on as many medications today if he had been on medication a long time ago.

9.48 – Ooh, look! It’s Richard Friedman, the psychologist/psychiatrist from the NYTimes.

9.52 – Back to adolescent Hart Lipton, who is in a special
school that gives him specialized attention. He has bipolar II. He is
on an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer.

9.52 – Emma takes one antidepressant and engages in talk therapy. She tried several different ones before she found one that worked.

9.53  – The Narrator admits that meds in young people isn’t
fully researched and may be a problem. He mentions the black box
warning on antid’s.

9.55 – NIMH docs are working on faster-acting meds for depression – as in 1 to 2-hour relief. Guinea pig patients were administered intravenous ketamine for depression. (WTF???) One of the patients, Carl, says he felt instantly better.

9.58 – Back to Shep. Doctors suggested performing a lobotomy but a resident intervened and suggested ECT. They cut to a scene from One Bird Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in which Jack Nicholson got ECT. Shep says it was worth it and that he began to feel better by the 11th treatment.

10.00 – ECT especially works well on the elderly. A woman, Sue, who developed late onset depression at age 65 comes back for her 9th treatment of ECT. It helps her. Her husband says, "She’s back to her old self."

The next hour of the show under the cut…

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Celebrity Sensitivity: Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth PaltrowActress Gwyneth Paltrow has come clean about her bout with postpartum depression after the birth of her son Moses. Speaking to Vogue magazine, Paltrow said:

“I didn’t know I had it until after it was over. I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt really out of my body. I felt really disconnected. I felt really down. I felt pessimistic.”

Katherine Stone gives her perspective on this story at Postpartum Progress.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

I recently wrote about the MOTHERS Act and the unnecessary scare tactics surrounding it. A Dallas-Fort Worth TV station picked up on the story and provided a short one-sided view of the issue, continuing to purport that the bill is solely about drugging new moms. I don’t discount Ms. Philo’s terrible experience with her medication. In fact, I’d be against the act if its sole purpose was to force treatment on pregnant women – medicated or not. Again, I’d like to reiterate that the bill’s purpose is to educate moms about postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis – not to shove unnecessary pills down women’s throats.

If you have sleep apnea, your CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine may alleviate depression symptoms. My husband has sleep apnea and hasn’t been able to use the CPAP machine because of sinus problems. When he doesn’t use it (he hasn’t for a while), he’s noticeably moodier and prone to depressive symptoms. But then again, anyone who doesn’t get good sleep for several days is pretty moody.

Seroquel XRAstraZeneca (AZ) is going after Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit after the two companies applied to make cheaper version of Seroquel available. AZ’s patent on Seroquel expires in 2011. The trial date for patent litigation is August 11. In the meantime, according to the Bloomberg report, the FDA is considering approval of Seroquel XR for bipolar depression and bipolar mania.

What is it about the U.K. that they seem to take pharma’s power more seriously than the U.S.? The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) charged GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the maker of Seroxat (Paxil in the U.S.), with not fully disclosing their clinical trial data that downplayed serious side effects such as increasing suicidal tendencies among those 18 years and younger. The MHRA also asserts that Seroxat didn’t alleviate depression as much as GSK’s initial data showed. GSK, of course, denied manipulating the data to show favorable results:

GSK denies withholding data, claiming the risks did not come to light until the results of nine studies were pooled.

The UK minister of public health, Dawn Primarilo, promised to address the issue of Big Pharma hiding negative clinical trial data.

“Notwithstanding the limitations that may exist in the law, pharmaceutical companies should disclose any information they have that would have a bearing on the protection of health,” she says.

In other news, I shouldn’t be a successful writer or novelist. The correlation between creative writers and suicide is ridiculously high. More than 70 well-known writers and poets have successfully committed suicide. How much more “unknown” writers and poets have as well?

(Image from Monthly Prescribing Reference)

Pregnancy is NOT a mental illness

I stumbled upon Yankee Cowgirl’s blog that mentioned Congress is working on the MOTHERS (Mom’s Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression) Act which would “strongly encourage pregnant women into mental health programs – that means drugs – to combat even mild depression during or after giving birth.”

She links to a column written by Byron J. Richards on newswithviews.com. He writes:

The Mothers Act is pending legislation that will indoctrinate hundreds of thousands of mothers into taking dangerous psych drugs.

He goes on to slam Big Pharma about how they control Congress and how mothers don’t need psych drugs for a natural birth process.

The Mothers Act (S. 1375: Mom’s Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act) has the net affect of reclassifying the natural process of pregnancy and birth as a mental disorder that requires the use of unproven and extremely dangerous psychotropic medications (which can also easily harm the child).

These are some serious accusations. I got pretty riled up myself and decided to see what Congress said in the bill.

Read the rest of this entry »

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Advance apologies for sounding like I’m in a cynical mood. I’m working on something today that I’m not fond of.


An article in Newsday (by the Associated Press) says that researchers are becoming hopeful that hormonal therapy can ward off mental health decline in menopausal women, such as dementia. It seems that previous research found that hormonal therapy produced negative results, but the new research suggests that timing may be the defining factor. Older women in the later stages of menopause seem to be at more risk for heart attacks, strokes, and breast cancer. Doctors are saying hormone therapy may work in women in the earliest stages of menopause.

The Long and Short of It

  1. Researchers have discovered that the malfunction of a gene thought to be associated with  schizophrenia or depression seems to have symptoms associated with those illnesses. They figured it out thanks to our trusty mice. The mutated gene is called DISC1 (Disrupted in schizophrenia 1).
  2. Breast-feeding helps new moms battle depression. Consuming foods with omega-3 fatty acids also provides benefits. According to an author named Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, breast-feeding lowers stress levels. However, if the mother is having issues feeding her child, it can have the opposite effect and bring on depression.
  3. Kathy CronkiteWalter Cronkite’s daughter Kathy has a book, The Edge of Darkness, which details her battle with depression. Oh, and by the way, Joan Rivers and Mike Wallace deal with depression too. (That’s in the book.) EDIT: Polly of polarcoaster.net let me know that Cronkite’s book isn’t new.  She was just discussing her experience with depression in Cincinnati’s The Enquirer.
  4. A new study shows that chronic depression may lead to diabetes in older people.

“The culprit appears to cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress. When someone is depressed, cortisol levels rise. If depression is chronic, cortisol levels may stay consistently high.” – Debra Manzella, R.N.

Also, make sure you’re working on your 300+ crunches daily:

“Excess belly fat is a known risk factor for diabetes.”

Loose Screws Mental Health News

I haven’t done this for a while so hopefully I can pick this up again a little more regularly. (crosses fingers)


Read a heart-wrenching story in the UK Daily Mail about a mother whose postpartum depression led her to begin slitting her wrists.

Tom ChaplinTom Chaplin, singer for the band Keane, has admitted to contemplating suicide.

Tom – who was taking up to two grams of cocaine a day – revealed to Britain’s Q Magazine: “I was at the end of my tether in Japan. I was tired of my life and feeling pretty suicidal. I got off the plane and called my dad. I’d told him that I’d left the band and that I was falling apart. I checked myself into The Priory.”

Chaplin’s interesting view:

Despite his own drugs hell, Tom says it’s a personal decision to experiment with substances. He claims troubled rock star Pete Doherty should be left to take all the drugs he wants.

Tom said: “No-one’s got any right to stop him killing himself.”

An article in the Chicago Tribune on how VNS is beginning to show benefits for some patients. Which reminds me, browse on over to VNSdepression.com to learn more.

Nicholas Vakkur must have read the Treatment Advocacy Center’s post on how the CATIE study shows an increase in violent offenses by mentally ill patients (namely those with psychosis and schizophrenia). He refutes this idea on dissidentvoice.org:

Individuals with a mental illness are far more likely to be the victims, rather than the perpetrators of violence, while the vast majority of people who commit acts of violence against others are not in fact mentally ill.

This rush to stereotype individuals suffering from psychiatric illness as likely murderers is reckless and lacks credulity. Mental illness has no role in the majority of violent crimes committed in our society. Alcohol and substance abuse far outweigh mental illness as factors contributing to violence, while the strongest predictor of violent and/or criminal behavior is a past history of violence and criminality, not a major mental illness.

Celebrity sensitivity: Britney’s mental illness

Britney SpearsI originally posed a theory that Britney Spears might be suffering from a mental illness such as postpartum depression (PPD) or bipolar disorder. Furious Seasons linked to an article on tmz.com (by way of Celebrity Baby Blog – wtf?) where “sources say doctors at her rehab facility think the underlying reason for her trouble may be post-partum depression.”

As for my theories:

“Sources tell TMZ that Britney’s doctors have two operating theories — either that she suffers from post-partum depression or bipolar disorder. The doctors strongly believe post-partum is the problem.”

At least I got the plausible diagnoses. Damn, I’m good.

(A nice pic of the former ‘sexy’ days of Ms. Spears.)

UPDATE: The Trouble With Spikol also wrote her own take on it too.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

According to the NIH, mothers can ward off postpartum depression by taking a prenatal vitamin to boost low iron levels. Mothers with iron deficiency were twice as likely to be at risk for PPD. Also, in case you didn’t know, counseling can help or stave off PPD as well.

Another NIH study has suggested that people who don’t respond to antidepressants could be aided by an injection of ketamine. Ketamine is primarily used for anesthesia. According to researchers, a dose of ketamine helped improve more than half of the participants’ mood in 2 hours (all 7 of them) while 71 percent felt better after 24 hours (all 13 of them). Supposedly, the effects lasted for a week for a third of the participants (all 4 of them). That’s very nice and all, but I’m looking forward to the follow-up study that analyzes ketamine’s long-term effects and safety.

A departure from news — are you bipolar? Take this quiz to figure it out! (P.S. Don’t take the quiz seriously.)

Dawdy over at Furious Seasons writes about a recent study that ties smoking with a “heightened risk of suicide in patients with bipolar disorder.” And an excerpt of his conversation with a DEA agent at the end of his post is awesome.

I’m also behind on reading many of the blogs on my blogroll so I’m doing my best to catch up – sorry for the delay…

Postpartum depression

About 10 to 15 percent of women experience its symptoms after childbirth. For some, it goes away. For others, it gets worse.

Doctors can’t pinpoint an exact cause but they guess it’s

  • stress
  • genetics
  • hormone fluctuations

PPD Stats:

  • Low-income women are at greater risk for PPD
  • Financial stress increases the risk of PPD while decreased access to healthcare lowers the chance of detection
  • PPD is prevalent among Hispanic women on Medicaid Journal of Women’s Health)
  • Half of women who show signs of PPD never seek treatment

While
50-60 percent of new moms get “baby blues” within 2 weeks of a
delivery, it can get better on its own. PPD affects 8-15 percent of
mothers worldwide and can develop into something serious. It can begin
anytime within 6 months after giving birth.

PPD symptoms:

  • loss of interest in hobbies and normal activities
  • frequent crying
  • appetite loss
  • lack of motivation
  • difficulty sleeping
  • potential inability to bond with child
  • possibly harming herself or her child (severe)

PPD treatment:

  • medication
  • counseling
  • both

PPD increased risks:

  • previous PPD
  • depression unrelated to pregnancy
  • severe PMS
  • marriage difficulties
  • lack of support from loved ones
  • stressful events occurring before or after birth
  • women younger than 17
  • single mothers without other adults around
  • divorced women