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The lightbulb went on for Lina Billings when she walked in the big arena, the ceiling draped in fine...

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Destigmatizing postpartum depression

It was only when Eugenia Sweet’s coworkers suggested that she was suffering from postpartum depression that she sought help. As a nurse, the possibility of experiencing that and not recognizing it was remote, but she went anyway. What happened next was something she never expected.

Eugenia went to a local urgent care and spoke briefly with the doctor, who verified the whereabouts of her children.

“Next thing I know, the nurse comes in the room and says, ‘Ok, they’re here.’”

Who’s “they”? she asked.

It turns out “they” were the police, the fire department and an ambulance.

“Why are they here?” Eugenia pressed.

“To take you.”

She went, but cautiously, to an emergency room at another hospital, where they stripped her of her possessions and shuffled her off into a room surveilled by hospital personnel.

This wasn’t the help that she expected to receive. It wasn’t help at all.

After determining that she didn’t need hospitalization, the hospital discharged her without treating her and only with an appointment with a social worker…three weeks later.

As a scholarship recipient and student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program in CSU’s School of Nursing, Eugenia hopes that one day no woman ever experiences what she did.

“I believe the way we treat women with mental health issues is not proper,” she says.

With her next child, she experienced another bout of depression, but was able to find help at University Hospitals (UH) with one of the few OBGYNs who specialize in mental health. Under her care, Eugenia says she quickly recovered.

Once she’s completed the DNP program, Eugenia hopes that she’ll be in a position to inform policy and shape practices in mental health treatment for women.

“A lot of women don’t share what is happening to them because they’re afraid that their kids are going to be taken away from them,” she says.

As a married mother of three, working as nurse for high-risk pregnancies at the UH Rainbow Center for Women and Children, Eugenia is fortunate for her support system. But she shudders to think what happens to women without a network to carry them through mental health crises.

“We need to find a way to treat these women better.”

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