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Murder-Suicide Case Linked To New Mother's Postpartum Depression?

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Last Feb. 2, tragedy struck a neighborhood in St. Louis when a family of three was found dead in their home in an apparent case of murder-suicide. Could this tragedy possibly be linked to postpartum depression or even postpartum psychosis?

Tragedy In St. Louis

In the afternoon of Feb. 2, a quiet neighborhood in St. Louis was struck with tragedy when the lifeless bodies of the Trokey family were discovered in their home. Young couple Matthew and Mary Jo Trokey, their young daughter Taylor Rose, as well as their dog were found to have been shot some time during the previous evening. According to authorities, there was no sign of forced entry and no sign that there was someone else at home when the shooting happened. Early investigations so far point to their deaths as a murder-suicide.

Just last December, the Trokeys celebrated the baptism of their months-old daughter. According to their parish priest who incidentally also performed three-month-old Taylor Rose's baptism, the couple was friendly and regularly attended mass and that he noticed no signs of trouble. However, some local reports state that during the funeral last Wednesday, family members revealed that Mary Jo had been suffering from postpartum depression (PPD).

Postpartum Depression And Postpartum Psychosis

Could it be possible that the shooting occurred as a result of postpartum depression or even postpartum psychosis? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), PPD is completely different from "baby blues," which many mothers experience after birth. Furthermore, postpartum psychosis is a separate pregnancy-related mood disorder that may involve psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. It is, however, quite rare, whereas PPD is pretty common as it can happen to 1 in 7 women.

PPD does not go away on its own and may leave the mother with anxiety, mood swings, scary thoughts, misery, excessive irritability, anger, inability to sleep, and even thoughts of harming the self or the baby. Its symptoms may occur within days or months after delivery and may last for months if left untreated.

For The Family's Safety

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Benjamin Feingold, it is important to get all the facts first before associating the Trokeys with postpartum psychosis. As stated, it is quite rare, and according to her, only 1 to 4 percent of postpartum psychosis cases lead to infanticide. However, she does point out the importance of seeking immediate help for the mother in cases of postpartum psychosis because it may put both her and her entire family's safety in jeopardy.

"These women are experiencing mania, hearing voices, [and] having delusional thoughts. Because they are psychotic, they need immediate hospitalization — both for their safety and their family's," stated Dr. Feingold.

Incidentally, Mary Jo was evidently a volunteer for an organization wherein her responsibility is meeting the social and emotional needs of patients. So far, the investigation is still under way, and authorities still have not named who the likely shooter was.

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