Content warning: This story contains mention of filicide, infanticide and suicide.
Last week, Massachusetts mother of three Lindsay Clancy, allegedly killed all of her children before attempting to take her own life. A fundraiser has been set up to help her husband, Patrick, as he navigates life in the wake of this tragedy. It’s been reported that Lindsay suffered from severe postpartum-related mental health struggles, and wasn’t herself at the time of the murders.
On the GoFundMe page created for his family, Patrick wrote in detail about how much he adored being a father to Cora, 5; Dawson, 3; and 8-month old Callan.
“The shock and pain is excruciating and relentless. I’m constantly reminded of them and with the little sleep I get, I dream about them on repeat,” Clancy wrote on a Jan. 28 update. “Cora, Dawson, and Callan were the essence of my life and I’m completely lost without them.”
He also wrote about how much he loves his wife, and how proud he always was to be her husband.
“Our marriage was wonderful and diametrically grew stronger as her condition rapidly worsened,” he wrote. “I want to ask all of you that you find it deep within yourselves to forgive Lindsay, as I have. The real Lindsay was generously loving and caring towards everyone – me, our kids, family, friends, and her patients. The very fibers of her soul are loving. All I wish for her now is that she can somehow find peace.”
Lindsay had reportedly been suffering from postpartum psychosis or severe depression when she strangled her three children at home while Patrick left for a brief amount of time. She attempted to take her own life by jumping out of a second-story window in their home. The infant, Callan, died from his injuries in the hospital a few days after the incident. His brother and sister were pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
She remains hospitalized and faces two counts of homicide, three counts of strangulation, and three counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon in connection with the deaths, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz Cruz said at a news conference.
While no one could possibly excuse or absolve the horror perpetrated by Lindsay, her mental health and mental state at the time of the tragedy is the hidden explanatory nightmare of it all—and it’s a vital part of the conversation surrounding this incident and postpartum mental health in general.
If you scroll through the donations and comments on the family’s GoFundMe page, mother after mother is sharing their own stories of the mental health struggles they endured postpartum—each of them offering their sympathy, empathy, and sorrow along with their donation.
What is postpartum psychosis?
From the GoFundMe to Twitter to Facebook moms’ groups to TikTok, it feels like the conversation surrounding postpartum mental health is at an all-time high in the wake of the Clancy family tragedy—specifically postpartum psychosis. It’s no secret that postpartum mental health care isn’t as much of a priority in the U.S. as it should be.
Some experts posit that Clancy is battling postpartum psychosis (PPP), a rare but serious postpartum mental condition. Thought to occur in just 0.3% to 0.6% of births, postpartum psychosis is more severe than postpartum depression (PPD) and is marked by hallucinations, delusions, hyperactivity, rapid mood swings and paranoia, and thoughts of harming oneself or their children.
While the majority of women diagnosed with postpartum psychosis do not harm themselves or their baby, evidence suggests around 5% of instances may result in suicide, and 1% to 4.5% may result in infanticide. Symptoms of PPP usually set in quickly, within the first two weeks after birth, but may appear anytime within the first year.
Postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical treatment and is considered a medical emergency. But with adequate treatment, nearly all women may achieve full remission, say the authors of one study.
Some consider PPP a rare subset of bipolar spectrum disorder that sets in during the postpartum period. While having a history of a mental health condition can make someone more susceptible to PPP, upwards of 40% of women who experience PPP will have had no previous mental health risk factor, which means there’s often no reason to suspect it.
It’s vital to recognize that PPP and other postpartum mental health conditions are treatable and reversible—but professional help is essential. According to Postpartum Support International, PPD is known as ‘the smiling depression,’ because many moms often try to put on a ‘happy face’ even when feeling depressed. As with many mental health conditions, the stigma surrounding PPD and PPP harms people everywhere and may prevent those who need help from reaching out for support, which is why it’s so important to check on each other—and keep checking.
Resources for those dealing with postpartum psychosis
- If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
- Postpartum Support International offers contact information for several Postpartum Psychosis Coordinators to provide support in non-emergency situations. They also provide a private peer support group for those in recovery.
- The perinatal psychiatry unit at the hospital at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hospital, led by Dr. Mary Kimmel, specializes in psychiatric care for pregnant women and new mothers.