American Filipino, Ken Ventanilla was shocked and devastated when he found his wife and their 8-week-old infant lying motionless with multiple stab wounds on a toddler bed. Recalling in the painful experience that took place in their home in Long Beach, California on 13 September 2016, Ken awoke to find her wife, Charlene and son, Shane dead.
"It's something I'll never forget. It's something that replays every morning," said Ken Ventanilla at an interview with abc7. "I wake up every day and think it was just all a dream, but it's not.”
Police had concluded that it was a murder-suicide. According to Ken, his wife’s mental health took a terrifying turn after she started taking birth control after having Shane. She began to have sudden and extreme anxiety and paranoia. She had even talked of committing suicide. She had scheduled to see a doctor about her symptoms. However, the tragedy struck a day before her appointment.
“That very last night, Charlene was reassuring me and her mother and everybody else that she was OK. I really don’t think that she could even grasp what was going on with her, or the type of control she didn’t have with herself,” says Ken to AsAM News.
Describing his wife as “the sweetest woman, the greatest wife I could ever ask for and the best mother” to ABC News affiliate, Ken wanted the world to know that postpartum depression was real and he hoped to raise greater awareness.
"I'm not going to let Charlene and Shane go in vain, so I'm going to spread awareness. I feel like I have this new mission in my life to spread hope," he said to abc7.
He added that his faith and his 2-year-old son had kept him motivated on his mission.
"That I can prevent this from happening, that I can save someone's life, that I can save a mother and I can save a family," he said.
Ken believed his wife was suffering from postpartum psychosis, a mental health disorder that was more extreme than the more common postpartum depression.
Postpartum psychosis is rare, according to experts. About one in every 1,000 women who give birth will experience it, said Dr. Emily Dossett, an expert on the topic and a clinical assistant professor at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. The disorder, Dossett said, is characterized by a break from reality that can include paranoia, hallucinations and in, rare cases, violence.
Some mothers become so disconnected that they feel as if an outside power is controlling their movements or they genuinely believe killing a child is their best course of action. Dossett pointed to the highly publicized case of Andrea Yates, who confessed to drowning her five children in a bathtub in 2001. Yates believed her children were at risk of being corrupted by a demonic influence, Dossett said, “And the best way to keep them pure was to kill them now and send them on to heaven.”
Experts don’t know what causes postpartum psychosis, but certain factors, such as a history of bipolar disorder, can indicate it’s more likely to appear in someone, according to Dossett. She added that there was no credible research about whether hormonal contraceptives and postpartum psychosis were linked. Some women will experience depression when they start taking the pill, according to Dossett, but postpartum depression is wholly separate from postpartum psychosis and not an indication that the more serious condition could develop. However, Dossett said, there is a dearth of education about postpartum depression and psychosis.
Leong Kim Weng is a writer who writes about parenthood's articles. He uses this platform to reach out to the young parents. Writing for www.parentsdojo.com has given him the opportunity to learn and share interesting perspectives with others.