I met Polly Fick a few years ago after I gave a talk about physician-assisted suicide and my own daughter’s suicide in 2009.
Polly told me the tragic story of her and her husband’s loss of their daughter, son-in-law and baby granddaughter. She also told me what she and her husband were doing to bring awareness of postpartum depression because of this loss. She and Frank hope this information may help or even save another mother and her family.
Polly has been spreading this message on local radio and most recently in the December 22, 2021 St. Louis Review Catholic newspaper article titled “St. Francis of Assisi couple finds hope through tragedy in spreading awareness of postpartum depression”
Polly and Frank were very close to their daughter Mary Jo Trokey and son-in-law Matthew and celebrated with them when their new granddaughter Taylor Rose was baptized in 2018.
Tragically, all three of them were found dead when Taylor Rose was 3 months old. Investigators believed “that Mary Jo, possibly suffering from postpartum psychosis, killed her daughter and husband, then died by suicide.”
Polly Fick and her husband, Frank, were stunned. “We had no idea she was going through this,” Polly Fick said.
The Ficks have since dedicated themselves to raising more awareness of postpartum depression and related illnesses. Now the members of their parish are also spreading the word about resources through their involvement with Postpartum Support International (PSI) as well as local groups mentioned in the article.
“When this sort of thing happens, you either grow from it or you end up being broken by it,” Frank Fick said. “As horrible as it was, we wanted something positive to come from it.”
According to PSI,:
“While many parents experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety. Please know that with informed care you can prevent a worsening of these symptoms and can fully recover. There is no reason to continue to suffer.”
“Postpartum psychosis is a rare illness compared to the rates of postpartum depression or anxiety. It occurs in approximately one to two out of every 1,000 deliveries, or approximately .1% of births. The onset is usually sudden, most often within the first 2 weeks postpartum.”
Postpartum Support International runs a helpline (1-800-944-4773), in-person and online support groups, a mentor program and a directory of care providers. See http://www.postpartum.net/
The Ficks were moved when their parish held a prayer service the evening the family learned about the deaths.
“People that I didn’t even know stepped forward,” Polly Fick said. “Left things on the porch. All of the South County deanery (parishes) really stepped up to the plate. And people prayed for us.”
“We would not be sitting here right now without the support,” she said. “It’s only by the grace of God.”
Polly and Fred Frick’s willingness to publicly talk about their tragedy has led to significant new information.
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch October 28, 2018 article titled “Following tragedy, St. Louis hospitals renew commitment to postpartum mental health” reported:
“Until recently, mental health screenings were not standard for pregnant women and new mothers even though at least 20 percent will experience depression or anxiety that can be exacerbated by hormonal surges, lack of sleep and the demands of an infant.
The screenings can be lifesaving — as many as one in five deaths of women in the postpartum period is caused by suicide.”
and in 2018, “the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued new “fourth trimester” recommendations for women’s ongoing care after childbirth, including a full assessment of their emotional well-being. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends depression screenings for new mothers at all of the baby’s checkups during the first six months.”
Nothing can bring back our deceased loved ones but Polly and Fred Frick are an inspiring example of how help, hope and healing can be brought out of even the most devastating tragedy.