Napa therapist suffers postpartum depression, kills self

Image 1 of 2

Post-partum depression was deadly for a Napa therapist who authorities say took her own life over the weekend. 

Holly Marie Bloom, 43, was identified as the woman who set herself on fire on a school playground Sunday afternoon. About a week ago, according to the Sheriff's Department, she attempted to end her life, too. Her four-month old infant had been removed from her care, although when was not made clear.   

Experts say while suicide is rare among new mothers, postpartum depression is not. 

"It's devastating, it's heartbreaking," said therapist Lily Rossman, a LMFT who specializes in pregnancy and post-partum issues and did not know Bloom. "How do people reach out for help, who could she have called? People are embarrassed to admit it, they feel disconnected. They do not fell happy and full of joy as expected and they don't know where to turn."

On Sunday, just before 3 p.m. Napa police and firefighters received the call about a fire at Snow Elementary School. 

Bloom lived in the apartment complex next door, and had walked over to the school playground. 

She doused herself with a flammable substance and lit herself on fire. She died at the scene.   

Bloom was a longtime mental health professional at Napa State Hospital- a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. She wrote on Facebook about finding the "inner child" in her mentally ill clients. 

"It's really scary when you think about someone with that kind of background, who would know what the signs are," observed Rossman.  

Statistics suggest between 15 and 20 percent of new mothers experience post partum depression, but it's likely higher because doctors may not ask- and women often don't tell. 

After birth, attention shifts to the newborn. Pediatrician visits replace the OB-GYN.

Sadness may be dismissed as the "baby blues," and some mood swings are normal and subside over time. 

But when depression deepens, it merits attention. 

Therapy, medication, well-care and support are all tools to fight post-partum depression. 

"Where's your mom who comes and makes soup for you, where's your family, your support, your partner?" posed Rossman. "I wonder if she may have been all alone ?" 

Rossman notes fewer than 1 percent of sufferers harm their babies or themselves.
She wondered if inpatient care or home supervision would have been better than removing the child. 
"No, that's the worst thing for that mom, really sad. Heartbreaking, that to me is the end of the rope," said Rossman. 

On Facebook, Bloom also refers to her own emotional struggles, breaking free from an abusive relationship, and journeying into healing, peace, and self-respect. 

It's unclear what precipitated her downward spiral, and what interventions might have saved her life. 

But for professionals who deal with postpartum depression, removing stigma and raising awareness are key.

"This is someone in our community, someone we know, a mental health professional," said Rossman. 
"This is serious. This can happen to anyone. So how do we come together to create a better system of resources to help people."

Warning signs include a mom who doesn't bond with her baby, doesn't care for her baby or herself as expected, and doesn't sleep or eat normally. 

Women may be openly sad or just emotionally flat and withdrawn. 

"Are you falling apart, are you crying all the time, are you not finding joy like you used to?" described Rossman.

All symptoms worth inquiring about, and seeking help if they persist. The Postpartum Support International is at 1-800-944-4773.