A devastated family has urged people to be more supportive and aware of how serious post-natal depression can be, after a mum of two died by suicide just weeks after welcoming her second child.
Shaciara McDowell, 18, died on Monday, September 7, after four weeks of giving birth to a second child, son Cáhir, as she had suffered a battle with post-natal depression.
The teenager, from Ballymena, Northern Ireland, suffered from post-natal depression for the second time. Following the birth of her first child, daughter Eire, she had the same illness.
Her family are adamant that the system supporting mums battling the mental health problem is not being supported enough, with the necessary precautions not being put in place.
Shaciara’s sister, Vanessa, told Belfast Live that she had once again been struck by the same illness. However, Shaciara felt that this time she couldn’t see a way out.
She said: “Her post-natal depression kind of kicked in around three weeks, so it was quite quick. She also suffered with post-natal depression with her first child and it too set in quick, and I think that is what’s most upsetting, the system knew she suffered the first time and they should have just been there a lot more of her second time round. They should of had things in place for her even before she gave birth.”
To support Shaciara’s two young children, a fundraising page has been launched in a bid to help out in whatever way possible.
Vanessa added: “It’s awful, the whole situation is just absolutely awful. He [Baby Cahir] will never forget her, she will always live on in us and he will know everything about her, they both will, and how much she loved them.”
The 27-year-old, who is the eldest of nine siblings, said that her sister was good at “pulling up the mask”.
She explained: “Shaciara was a bit like us all I suppose sometimes, she didn’t want to burden anyone with her problems and even if she did bring it up she would be like, ‘it’s alright though, I’m fine’ she didn’t want to talk about it but that’s just the place she was in, in her head.
“Shaciara was an absolutely brilliant mummy, she was so sassy and just full of personality, she was just so lovely, I can’t even describe her, she was just my sister and she meant the world to us all.
“She was given anti-depressants but they weren’t helping.”
Vanessa is hoping that by sharing her little sister’s heartbreaking story that other women will be encouraged to seek help and that more will be done in terms of practical support for mums battling post-natal depression.
She said: “It’s awful that women don’t get the support that they need, there are so many women with post-natal depression who just don’t get the help and they’re ashamed and like my mummy said, there is just this image of the perfect mother all over the place and the reality isn’t like that.
“The support from everyone has been overwhelming and all we want is that awareness to be raised we want women to know that isn’t the only answer, there is help available.”
Speaking to any mums that find they are struggling and need help, Vanessa added: “Just keep going, don’t buy into the stigma of medication makes you weak, if you have cancer you would treat yourself for that cancer, the brain is just as important, look after your brain.”