Clinician note: The risk of suicide is significantly increased among depressed women during the perinatal period. While suicide deaths and attempts are lower during the postpartum than in the general population of women, when deaths do occur, suicides account for as many as 20 percent of postpartum deaths (Lindahl, Pearson,& Colpe, 2005).
Recent media attention to suicide attempts and deaths by new mothers has raised public and congressional awareness about the potential devastating consequences of depression during the postpartum period. It is a risk that postpartum women and their families as well as the clinicians who treat them must take very seriously at all times, particularly in, but not limited to, the early assessment stages.
Below are some guidelines for assessing suicidality with your postpartum client:
IMPORTANT POINTS TO KEEP IN MIND:
Demonstrates significantly impaired functioning.
Expresses suicidal thoughts with a developed or intended plan.
Is ambivalent about her ability to keep herself and her baby safe.
Expresses intent to herself or her baby.
In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Adapted from Therapy and the Postpartum Woman (Routledge, 2009)