The family of a Virginia police officer who took her own life is opening up about her struggles with postpartum depression to educate and change minds.
Shelane Gaydos was a tough cop despite her petite size, police say.
“She loved the idea of just trying to get the ‘bad people’ off the street,” said her sister, Sarah Bryant.
But she counted being a mom as her most important accomplishment. She loved raising a family, and she and her husband, Brian, who had three daughters together, were expecting a fourth child in 2015 when she had a miscarriage.
“She was struggling with this anxiety,” her sister said.
But her family had no idea just how badly she struggled until two weeks after the miscarriage when she called her mother, Joanne Bryant.
“She said, ‘Mom, there’s something not right,’” her mother said. “She said, ‘I have this feeling that’s something’s just not right.’”
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The next call brought devastating news: At just 35 years old, Shelane Gaydos had killed herself.
“We needed to do something to spread awareness so that other people wouldn’t be affected,” Sarah Bryant said.
The family launched Shelane's Run — a family-filled event aimed to educate people about postpartum depression.
Nearly 15 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth. But according to the National Institute of Mental Health, postpartum depression can begin before or any time after childbirth.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include lack of interest in the baby; mood swings; scary thoughts about something bad happening to the baby and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.
“But like with most mental health issues, we just don’t talk about it,” said Adrienne Griffen of Postpartum Support Virginia, who also suffered through postpartum depression.
She’s now talking about it and teaming up with Gaydos’ family, hoping it will spark change.
“And I really put the onus on the healthcare providers to ask the mom how they’re doing,” Griffen said. “We can’t wait for the mom — who’s already struggling — to say, ‘Hey, I need help!’ We need to be saying, ‘How’s it going? We know this can be a tough transition. Let us know if you’re struggling. We’ve got lots of resources available.’”
The Bryants are encouraged knowing Gaydos is helping others.
“She’s made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives,” her mother said.