A couple of local not-so-recent stories illustrate that “PPD” does indeed exist here in the paradise of Hawaii.

The first is about a family named Young; the second about a young Big Island girl. I may not get to the second one. Both are about postpartum psychosis, not the generic postpartum depression, nicknamed “PPD”.

The Young story that came out initially November 22, 1965 reappeared in 2001, six days after Andrea Yates of Houston Texas drown her five children.

Why did a 36-year-old story reappear?

Because it had happened before. Another drowning story. Five children. Right here in Hawaii. Brought up again by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Reporter Treena Shapiro says in Father Whose Wife Killed Their 5 Children in Aiea in 1965 Urges Compassion, that the 1965 “case remains one of the worst multiple slayings in state history”.

Unknown case, or little remembered. Even the rerun version of the Young’s story washed away again, lost to the Yates’ headlines. Is there a case recorded that is worse than these?

I’ve read the stories (there was a follow up, Bond of Sorrow connecting Russel Yates and James Young, almost a month later too) but coming back from the PSI conference in Houston I’m seeing the stories again, with new eyes. There were people there, connected with the Texas story; kind, composed, low-key, compassionate. Some perhaps still trying to understand. (And a few refusing to even try to understand.)

Maybe the obvious thing to say is that we, the country, didn’t learn the first time around, in 1965 with the Young family. The news stories reached Canada and the UK. Personally I don’t remember it, and my mother wouldn’t have mentioned it to us kids, but when I Googled it today I found the story had run in many states and countries. Did we miss the lesson?

No, I don’t think so. Unlike today (or 2001), there wasn’t 24/7 news on multiple television channels. Mental health (or illness!) “just wasn’t talked about”, except maybe in hushed tones. It was still 20 years before Oprah uncloseted our lives.

Unlike Texas, with a strong leaning towards the death penalty, Hawaii sent Mrs. Young to the State Hospital with no death penalty. In 1965. I’m not sure that would have been much different than prison, back then, no matter what state of the country.

The era of inhumane “snake-pit” institutional care “was gone, but not too far removed” said one Hawaii social worker about the early 1960’s psychiatric hospitals, in a Star-Bulletin story, Giving the lost a home.

There have been stories here in Hawaii since 1965 in which a mother with postpartum psychosis harms or kills her baby(s), herself, or both. Since 2001, there have been a couple. Fewer children involved. Prison time considered strongly. It’s difficult to make sense of what sentence a psychotic incidence will be decided for any given case.

Surely in this day and age, TREATMENT should unquestionably be a given.

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