August 15, 2013
Justice, Fairness, and Perinatal Mental Health
PSI has a long history of exploring the intersection of the legal system and perinatal mental health. This area is full of challenge and potential, both positive and negative. All too often, we see the negative results: women and the impact of mental illness are misunderstood, resulting in custody decisions, trials, convictions, and sentences based on ignorance and prejudice. While women arrested for a crime while affected by perinatal mental illness need and deserve evaluation and treatment, far too often they receive none and suffer in custody without support.

PSI works to increase the potential for positive change -- for an improved knowledge base of attorneys, judges, and public juries, to facilitate justice and effective representation for women who have suffered through perinatal mental health disorders.  PSI as an organization does not advocate directly on behalf of any single individual or legal case, but we do advocate for the right to informed and just legal assistance for all families. We advocate and work for increased education so that legal and healthcare providers and the public better understand perinatal mental illness. We work to assist those who are supporting individual cases by sharing information and resources, and we share reliable data and rationale for just treatment. We advocate and reach out to survivors of perinatal mental illness toward the goal of healing and recovery. We must work together so that the temporary and treatable nature of perinatal mental illness is understood and experienced by all.

All families have the right to informed care, support, and legal defense. We know how hard it is to find these services and PSI is committed to helping to create a network of support for these families.  The PSI Board is completing a position statement on legal issues so that we have an effective and consistent response to the question of perinatal mental illness in legal challenges. We want that statement to be available to any who contact us or reach our website.

Read below about the PSI Pen-Pal Network, coordinated by steadfast advocate Corinne Reilly, and please contact us if you are interested in helping our efforts to improve coordination of knowledgeable legal resources and informed advocacy. 

Leslie Lowell Stoutenburg, RNC, MS, PSI President
Leslie Lowell Stoutenburg, RNC, MS

Wendy N. Davis, PhD, PSI Executive Director

Wendy N. Davis, PhD

Upcoming PSI for it!

  • Marcé  Society International new postion paper “Psychosocial Assessment and Depression Screening in Perinatal Women.” 
  • PSI International Members and Networks News
  • Using the PSI members directory

PSI PenPal Network for Incarcerated WomenPSI's Pen Pal Network for Incarcerated Women

By Corinne Reilly, Pen Pal Network Coordinator

Anyone who has experienced postpartum psychosis knows what a terrifying experience it is. Now imagine the immeasurable pain of trying to heal after taking your baby's life while in the midst of a psychotic episode. Now imagine facing all of that -- plus serious criminal charges -- from the inside a jail cell, with no family, no friends and no real treatment options.

For many members of PSI's Pen Pal Network for Incarcerated Women, this is reality, or it was at one time. Started in the 1980s by PSI Founder Jane Honikman, the Pen Pal Network now has about 30 members who live in jails, prisons and state hospitals across the country. Essentially, the network is a through-the-mail support group that connects women who are incarcerated, or were at one time, for crimes they committed while suffering from postpartum psychosis. Most are imprisoned for infanticide or attempted infanticide. Some members have been incarcerated for decades and have been in the Pen Pal Network almost as long. Others are free now. Others were arrested recently and are only beginning to come to grips with what happened to them. As the network's volunteer coordinator, I correspond directly with most of the women and regularly send out "newsletters" to the whole group that include any updates and messages they want to share so they can support each other and stay connected. Some of the women also correspond directly with each other, but some cannot because many prisons prohibit mail from other inmates.

New members find the network in a range of ways. Sometimes a friend or relative finds information about the network on PSI's website. Other times I write to women and tell them about the network after reading about their cases in the news. Many are surprised to learn that such a program exists, and some, sadly, are surprised to learn that there are other women out there who've experienced the same thing. Some had not heard of postpartum psychosis before it happened to them. I think this is the network's most valuable purpose: to show its members that they are not alone and not to blame by connecting them with others who've been through the same thing.

One of the network's side missions is to help its members find legal resources when possible. This includes connecting newly arrested women with attorneys and experts who have experience with criminal cases involving psychosis. It also has included supporting women who have applied for clemency -- a request for immediate or early release decided by their state's governor -- usually based on the grounds that mental illness was not considered in their initial prosecution. A longtime member of the Pen Pal Network, Debra Gindorf, was granted clemency in Illinois in 2009 after nearly 25 years in prison. Several other network members have pending clemency petitions that have not yet been decided. In many Western countries, including Britain and Canada, psychosis cases are met with treatment, rather than criminal charges and incarceration. It is most unfortunate that cases here usually involve the latter, but I believe we are making progress. More and more women are being found not guilty by reason of insanity, including a few of the network's newer members.

If you are an attorney or expert who has experience with psychosis cases and would be willing to help, contact PSI's legal resources coordinator, Teresa Twomey, at If you would like more information on the Pen Pal Network, contact me at You can find information and share the PSI website link with others here.

PSI NEWS Submissions
PSI NEWS is seeking informative news or feature articles from professionals, news from regions and PSI volunteers, and personal stories of recovery. Write to us at for more information or to submit your news items.

PSI 27th Annual Conference 
with UNC Center for Women's Mood Disorders
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
June 18-21, 2014
UNC Chapel Hill
Send your session or poster proposals 

PSI Trainings & Events
PSI Course
PSI Certificate of Completion Course
"Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care"
September in France!
There are still spaces left for the Sept 23-24 PSI Certificate Training in France! Come to all or pick among three workshops: Scott Stuart, MD; Kathy Wisner, MD; and the PSI Training with Birdie Meyer, RN, MA, Wendy Davis, PhD, and Oguz Omay, MD. Sign up Now
Tain L'Hermitage France
Learn more about PSI Trainings and upcoming events.
Upcoming 2013:

PSI and The 2020 Mom Project launch on-line clinical training 
Sept 9 - Dec 2, 2013 
Easy online registration is available for this specialized training webinar This 6-session certificate course is presented by top experts and trainers in the field of perinatal mental health. Join from the comfort of your own home or office, network with other participants, and study with faculty Diana Lynn Barnes, PsyD, LMFT; Pec Indman, MFT, EdD; Trish McGarrigle, MS, MFT; LAC; Kate DeStefano-Torres, MA, NCC, ACS, LPC; Birdie Gunyon Meyer, RN, MA; Gabrielle Kaufman, MA, ADTR, NCC; Wendy N. Davis, PhD; Joy Burkhard, MBA.

If Not For You
We are so grateful for your support. Only through the generosity of your donations are we able to sustain and improve PSI programs and services in 2013. It's easy to donate...visit our Network for Good link or through PayPal. You can choose to make a single donation, or become a sustaining member by selecting a recurring gift. Your tax-deductible contribution will help us provide communities worldwide with reliable, compassionate, and essential support, resources, and informed professional care. From our Volunteer Scholarship Fund Donors to those who have donated in memory of a loved one, PSI is grateful and moved by your generosity.


PSI Coordinators: Send Us Your News!

PSI would not exist without the dedication and caring of its support coordinators. We thank you for the volunteer work you do in your communities to provide social support, information, reassurance, and resources to mothers and their families. We invite you to send us your news of how you are reaching out to families in your area. Contact us at

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