Florence Leung, a new mom from British Columbia, was reported missing on October 25, 2016. Three weeks later, on November 15, the search came to a tragic end when her body was discovered off the coast of Vancouver.
Leung, 32 at the time of her death, was battling postpartum depression, a perinatal mood disorder that affects 15 to 20 percent of the approximately 4 million U.S. women who give birth each year, according to the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health. Per NCMMH, only 15 percent of those women will seek the help and treatment they need.
But Leung’s husband, Kim Chen, is trying to change that. On Tuesday, January 17, the widower penned an emotional post on a Facebook page dedicated to his wife. In it, he urged women fighting similar battles to reach out for help.
“Two months have passed since the detectives and victim assistance staffs showed up at our home, with the grim look on their faces,” Chen began. “I knew immediately what they were going to say before they entered.”
Chen, who is raising their infant son, wrote that he has been “living in survival mode” since losing his beloved Flo. “As the initial shock and emotional numbness slowly subsides, I’m experiencing more flashbacks of memories from our 6.5 years of happiness, and for now these memories tend to trigger pain and intense longing,” he revealed. “That is why I had not been reviewing our photos and videos the last 2 weeks. I now understand the importance to be kind and gentle to myself, and not to overwhelm myself intentionally.”
Instead he is focusing on their smiley little boy. “He is at 90th percentile for height and weight,” Chen shared. “He’s beginning to do tripod-sitting, and will turn over soon.”
In his post, Chen shared an article about another woman who took her own life while suffering from postpartum depression. “For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings,” he wrote. You are not Not alone. You are Not a bad mother.”
The grieving dad also pleaded with hospitals to put less pressure on moms to exclusively breastfeed. “I still remember reading a handout upon Flo’s discharge from hospital with the line ‘Breast Milk Should Be the Exclusive Food For the Baby For the First Six Months,’” Chen recalled. “I also remember posters on the maternity unit ‘Breast is Best.’ While agreeing to the benefits of breast milk, there NEEDS to be an understanding that it is OK to supplement with formula, and that formula is a completely viable option.”
If you or anyone you know is suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, call Postpartum Support International at 800-944-4773. A trained staff member will provide confidential, judgment-free support, as well as local resources to assist in healing, recovering and more.
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