Postpartum depression cases spike due to pandemic isolation

"For some reason we think this is a character disorder, or I'm not a great mom, and it's far from the truth."
YORBA LINDA, Calif. (KABC) -- Mental Health experts are noticing another disturbing trend due to the coronavirus pandemic: a sharp increase in the number of new moms experiencing postpartum depression.

A local health system noticed the surge and is finding new ways to tackle this problem.

Erin Riley of Yorba Linda always wanted to be a mom.

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At one point, Cera Flynn was caring for her husband who had COVID-19, their terminally-ill puppy and trying to help her twins learn remotely all while working full time as a teacher's coach. Here's what she said helped her when she felt overwhelmed and exhausted.

When her son was born, Riley sailed through the struggles of being a first-time mom. When her daughter arrived a year and a half ago, she felt despair.

"Not suicidal thoughts, she said, "But I thought I just need to get in some kind of accident so that I have to be in the hospital and I don't have to take care of anybody for two weeks. I knew that wasn't right to feel that way," Riley said.

Counseling helped her, but when the lockdown started in March, it triggered the same depression and anxiety again.

"How am I going to handle the day-to-day activities?" she wondered.

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As part of Mental Illness Awareness week, we asked Southern California residents what they do to help manage their mental health during this difficult year. Eyewitness News viewers shared what they do.

Within the Providence Mental Health Clinical Institute's 11 hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange counties, postpartum depression cases have jumped from 15% to 20%, according to Mike Sherbun, RN and executive director of the institute.

"For some reason we think this is a character disorder, or I'm not a great mom, and it's far from the truth," he said. "Roughly about 6,400 cases in Southern California that need to be treated."

The recent spike spurred the clinical institute to expand its maternal mental health program, which combines therapy and medication carefully dosed to allow for breastfeeding. Providence also brought on new therapists to provide full-day therapy sessions.

With therapy, they're able to see things in a different light. Someone's hearing them and you can see those neuro-chemicals change because of it.

"Definitely talk to a professional, there's so many programs out there, and there's programs out there for free. Just go for a walk, put your headphones on, and go for a walk by yourself. Don't take your kids with you. Tell your partner I need this time," Riley said.
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ABC7's Denise Dador got tips from Psychiatrist Dr. Luis Sandoval, Psychologist Dr. Cheryl Grills, and "MomAngeles" blogger Laura Gerson during a virtual town hall about how to cope during the pandemic.

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