157: Postpartum Psychosis, Changing the Law, Advocating for Women

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By Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D. and Katayune Kaeni. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Today’s show is a fascinating discussion about the law and postpartum psychosis. My guests helped usher a new law through the Illinois legislature, and the bill became law in January 2018. It’s the first criminal law in the nation to recognize the effects of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, so we’re digging into what it took to get the legislation passed and what steps you can take to get the law changed in your state.

Dr. Susan Feingold is a licensed clinical psychologist, perinatal legal advocate, and author. She’s a member of the President’s Advisory Council and Postpartum Psychosis Task Force for Postpartum Support International. Susan wrote Happy Endings, New Beginnings: Navigating Postpartum Disorders, and has specialized for over 26 years in women’s mental health issues related to reproduction. She’s an advocate and expert witness involved in legislative efforts for women with postpartum depression on the state and national level and served as the President of the Board of Trustees for Depression After Delivery, Inc. Along with Barry Lewis, Susan won the 2018 Maternal Mental Health Innovation Award in Policy and Advocacy; she also won the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award for her work in perinatal issues and women’s mental health.

Barry Lewis is a litigation attorney with over 44 years in the private practice of law, primarily in the area of criminal law. He’s the past chair of the Chicago Bar Association Lawyer Referral Committee, winner of an award from Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, and has been a continuing legal education lecturer. His most recent published work was in The Champion, the magazine of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and was titled A New Model of Law Offers Hope: Postpartum Disorders and the Law. Barry and Susan have a book coming in January 2020: Advocating for Women with Mental Illness: Changing the Law and Transforming the National Climate. The book covers why the law needs to be changed and the steps we can take to make it happen!

Show Highlights:

  • Why Susan and Barry are busy working on their new book due out in January
  • One purpose of the book is to motivate others to help change laws in their states
  • How a small group of people was able to make a change in the Illinois law
  • How the change process began with two incarcerated women in Illinois who were serving 30-year and 33-year prison sentences
  • How the new law recognizes postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis as mitigating factors in sentencing when women commit crimes while suffering
  • The long process in getting legislation passed
  • The typical charges in infanticide or postpartum psychosis/depression cases and the shortcomings of the law in dealing with them
  • The difficulty for defense attorneys in making an insanity plea
  • The arbitrary aspect of sentencing from state to state and case to case because there are not sufficient laws
  • The magnitude of women who could be supported and helped with new, sweeping legislation
  • The steps that need to be taken in treatment and sentencing for incarcerated women suffering from postpartum depression/psychosis
  • Why these women benefit from being declared unfit for trial
  • What people can do to start the change process in other states:
    • Find the legislation schedule
    • Look for a sponsor in the House or Senate
    • Take an advocate training session
  • How infanticide laws differ in England, Scotland, and Wales
  • The important first step: eliminate mandatory minimum sentences
  • Why unique conditions call for unique laws
  • How the new Illinois law has opened the door for other legislation
  • The development model to follow in dealing with these issues inhumane ways:
    • Identify the problem
    • Write the law clearly
    • Document the need for new laws
    • Attract a sponsor
    • Convince legislators to act
  • Examples of appropriate sentencing

Resources:

Websites: Dr. Susan Feingold and Barry Lewis Law

Email: susanbf@sbcglobal.net and blewislaw@att.net

164 episodes