Law aims to help moms with postpartum depression

May 5, 2010 (CHICAGO) On Capitol Hill Thursday, the Chicago mother who took her own life will be remembered. The family of Melanie Stokes fought for legislation to address postpartum depression and a ceremony will be held to announce a new law named for Stokes.

Stokes committed suicide less than six weeks after having a baby. That was in 2001. Since then Melanie Stokes' mother has been on a mission to help prevent it from happening to other families.

Carol Blocker will join Congressman Bobby Rush and others in Washington on Thursday to celebrate the new law that provides federal funding for education and research. The Melanie Blocker Stokes Mothers Act was signed into law as part of the health care bill.

Because Sommer Sky Stokes only knows her mother through pictures, one of the 9-year-old's favorite things to do is looking at family photo albums with her grandmother.

"Melanie would have been so proud of her. It just breaks my heart," said Blocker.

Sommer was only 3 months old when her mom, Melanie Stokes, took her own life by jumping from a 12th floor hotel window. Blocker says her daughter's dream was to become a mother. Stokes did not give birth until she was 40, yet she had a baby's name picked out when was 14.

But right after Sommer was born, Blocker says Melanie started acting strangely.

"Melanie went listless. She stared at the ceiling. She told me she shouldn't have had the baby. She made a mistake," said Blocker.

Before she could figure out what was happening to Melanie, Blocker says it was too late.

"Melanie was my life. She was my best friend. She was my heart. And I couldn't not save her. And I thought, I have got to do something," said Blocker.

For the past nine years, Blocker has made it her cause to do something about postpartum depression and in the most severe cases like Melanie's, postpartum psychosis. So far, her biggest accomplishment is the mothers act, which will provide money for research and education. But Blocker says there is a still a long way to go when it comes to understanding and treating the disease.

"What people don't understand is that postpartum psychosis is the killer, not the moms. And this is what we have to stop," said Blocker.

Within five weeks following Stokes' death, three more Chicago-area new mothers took their lives. Blocker says there needs to be a safe house with well trained doctors and nurses who can help and protect mothers suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis. She says despite her efforts, people remain naive about the disease.

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