Ariana Sutton was a dance instructor and mom of three who friends describe as “warm” and “upbeat” and who loved being a mom, according to her husband Tyler Sutton.
On May 22, Ariana Sutton, 36, gave birth to newborn twins Everly Irene and Rowan Stephen, who joined the couple’s eldest daughter, 4-year-old Melody.
Just nine days later, on May 31, Ariana Sutton died by suicide.
Now Tyler Sutton is speaking out to demand change when it comes to the condition he says led to his wife’s death, postpartum depression.
“It takes a very strong person to ask for help,” Tyler Sutton told “Good Morning America.” “If only we could make it the norm to ask for help instead of [women] feeling ashamed for not being able to do it yourself, because this is a real thing. It’s very, very real, very powerful, very dangerous, and shouldn’t be faced with [alone].”
Tyler Sutton, a Massachusetts police officer, said his wife had no mental health issues before giving birth to their first child.
After giving birth to Melody in 2018, he said his wife had a “very severe case” of postpartum depression, which can be intense and sometimes longer-lasting depression that occurs after having a baby, according to the U.S. Centers for Control. and disease prevention.
“We weren’t very familiar with it, so we were very clueless, both of us,” said Tyler Sutton, referring to postpartum depression. “As things got worse, we had no organization to turn to. We had nothing planned because we didn’t know what we were dealing with.”
Tyler Sutton said he noticed changes in his wife’s personality, but since she didn’t know much about the condition, her first instinct was “just to chalk it up to being a new mom.” Then, he said he saw a problem in his wife that needed professional medical help.
“I came back home [from work] one morning and I couldn’t recognize the person sitting across from me,” she said. So we left my daughter with her grandmother and took her to the hospital where they said it was postpartum depression.
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Tyler Sutton said that after two different hospitalizations, Ariana Sutton started coming back to herself thanks to the right combination of medications and a mental health professional.
“In retrospect … we dropped the ball a lot and fumbled a lot and were lucky enough to catch it back, when it shouldn’t be the case,” he said. “It shouldn’t have, it shouldn’t have taken so long to get her home the first time.”
When the Suttons decided to raise their family again, Tyler Sutton said it was a very thoughtful decision, and it was the reason they waited four years after Melody was born.
“When we finally got pregnant with twins, we came up with a plan,” she said. “We put together a team: a psychiatrist we’ve known for four years and a therapist who she kept talking to all those four years, because she was always afraid she would come back.”
After a healthy pregnancy, Ariana Sutton went into labor with the twins about three weeks before her scheduled induction. While she was released from the hospital just days after giving birth, the twins remained in the hospital’s NICU.
Tyler Sutton has said that the twins’ premature birth was a “big trigger” for Ariana Sutton, who says she started experiencing postpartum depression much earlier than she did after the birth of their first child.
“What happened to her over the span of a few weeks happened over a couple of days this time,” Tyler Sutton said. “And even though we had a plan in place, there was no way for us to predict that this would happen so quickly and so suddenly. It just came out of the blue and we weren’t ready.”
Raise awareness of postpartum depression
Tyler Sutton said that, following his wife’s death, he now plans to spend the rest of his life raising awareness about postpartum depression, a condition that affects up to 1 in 8 women who give birth, according to the CDC.
She said she wants to create change as a legacy for Ariana Sutton and their children, noting, “Hopefully when they’re old enough to have kids, there will be a better system put in place for them.”
Describing how she wants their children to remember their mother, she added: “Postpartum depression wasn’t really something that defined her, it was something that happened to her that could have been avoided, that we just couldn’t stop in time.”
Symptoms of postpartum depression include withdrawal from loved ones, crying more than usual, feeling worried or overly anxious, feeling anger, doubting your ability to care for your baby, and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby , according to the CDC. Symptoms can last for weeks or months after giving birth and are more intense and long-lasting than the “baby blues” women may experience after giving birth.
While a history of depression can increase the risk of postpartum depression, there is no single test that can diagnose postpartum depression or predict whether or not a woman will have it. It is often up to women or their partners and family members to seek professional medical help if they are struggling after giving birth.
Part of the change Tyler Sutton said he wants to see is in how health care providers talk to expecting people about postpartum depression.
“If there was anything I could start right now, [it would be to] just ask the medical community to make a small change in their routine and add another line to their to-do list when meeting people,” she said. When a pregnant person walks into their office for the first time and they’re very excited and start talking to them about the future and appointments and ways to prepare and things to watch out for, by the end they should say, “We’re going to talk about depression periodically.” postpartum and gravity and several things you can do about it to prepare yourself for the possibility.'”
She continued, “And every time they come in for an appointment, every time they go see someone, every time they go in for an ultrasound, someone should be sitting there saying, ‘How are you feeling? Did you feel anxious or something?’ like that? We’re asking because we need you to be aware of the possibility of postpartum depression. You may not think it could happen to you, but you may not know until it’s too late, so let’s talk about it.'”
Tyler Sutton said he would also recommend pregnant women be given the name and number of a social worker they can save in their phone and be encouraged to see a therapist while pregnant so they have an established relationship to turn to if any emergency. .
“When this was happening to us, we had no numbers. We had no names. We had no one to go to,” he said. “We were constantly having to rush to the hospital, sit in a waiting room and then sit in another room until finally someone came and said, ‘Yeah, you need to get her a therapist,’ and then I’d have to pick up my phone.” go out and start looking”.
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According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 women surveyed in the United States were not asked about depression at a prenatal visit and 1 in 8 were not asked at a postpartum visit. Additionally, more than half of pregnant women with depression receive no treatment.
The CDC notes that the type of mental health care pregnant and postpartum women receive may depend on where they live. The agency says states should use programs that can help screen for and treat women for depression, and urges health care professionals to “ask every pregnant and postpartum woman about symptoms of depression” and learn about local resources to ask. help.
Tyler Sutton said that as he mourns his wife, he’s comforted that her story could end up helping other families, saying, ‘It gives me hope that somewhere, someone is getting the help they need that they wouldn’t have a few days ago. .”
Friends of the Sutton family have started a GoFundMe campaign to support the family through the “challenging journey” ahead. Friends are also using the campaign to shine a spotlight on postpartum depression, writing: “Share this campaign with your network to raise awareness about postpartum depression and the importance of mental health care during and after pregnancy. Fostering a community in solidarity, we can work to prevent other families from experiencing similar tragedies”.
Tyler Sutton said speaking himself, he also hopes it will encourage more women to describe their experiences with postpartum depression so more people know about the signs.
He recalled that Ariana Sutton once described her experience with postpartum depression to him as if “a tiny person took refuge in her head and would drown out all the positive things people were trying to get her through.”
“At the end of the day, I watched it from a viewer’s point of view, even though I was there myself. It can only take the conversation so far,” said Tyler Sutton. “Self [Ariana] were he here, he’d do a much better job of describing what he felt. She’s been very articulate about everything, but unfortunately she’s not here to do that.”
For families coping with postpartum depression, Postpartum Support International offers a toll-free, confidential call and text helpline at 1-800-944-4PPD (4773). If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. Free, confidential support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You are not alone.
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