After her daughter committed suicide during a bought of severe pregnancy-related depression, a Rio Rancho woman started a nonprofit to help women find resources to handle that condition.
Susan Aguayo founded Kassy’s Kause in 2015, soon after her daughter’s death in the first trimester of pregnancy.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 14-23 percent of women will experience symptoms of depression during pregnancy.
Kassy’s Kause is a nonprofit organization with a mission to spread education and awareness about perinatal depression, or pregnancy-related depression. According to kassyskause.org, often, women won’t share their experiences because they feel afraid of what others think or ashamed that they cannot control their hormones.
“Young women need to realize that moms need to be credited for more than what we go through,” she said. “It’s not just nine months carrying a child — it’s physical, emotional and mental pressure in our lives to bring a baby to this world.”
Aguayo said her daughter, Kassandra Williams, wanted to be a parent since she was a toddler. When she found out Williams was pregnant, it was good news, but she had no idea what her daughter was going through during her pregnancy.
Aguayo said she started a blog to discuss her experience with her daughter shortly after Williams’s passing in March 2015. She said people came to her with many questions and concerns.
“The summer after, people started reaching out to say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe she went through this,'” Aguayo said.
She said she did not have enough information to start a nonprofit until she got assistance from other states. People provided her with information on what they were doing to help women with mental health during pregnancy.
“I thought, ‘How many women are experiencing this in silence, because they aren’t being informed or educated enough?'” Aguayo said. “How many husbands don’t know what their wives are going through? We need education.
“So, in October 2015, I took a leap of faith. I didn’t know where to go, but the right people were put into my path about where to go and what to do. Within a few months, we had everything set.”
Since then, Aguayo has worked to collect resources for pregnant women. This includes programs that give assistance to women during pregnancy, doulas and midwifes for women who don’t want to go to the hospital and counselors that work with perinatal and postpartum depression.
Aguayo said that in February, New Mexico House of Representatives declared Feb. 11 to be Kassy’s Kause Awareness of Perinatal-Postpartum Depression Day.
She said hospitals are screening mothers who express concerns of depression and anxiety. Aguayo and her supporters plan to go in front of legislation next year and request a bill to make screening for maternal mental health disorder mandatory during and after pregnancies. Additionally, they want to consolidate hospitals and open a unit that expecting and new moms can rely on for assistance.
With the support of mothers, advocates and organizations across multiple states, Aguayo said Kassy’s Kause will appear before New Mexico representatives in a few weeks to explain why there is a need to spread awareness on perinatal depression and break the stigmas many women face.
Aguayo’s advice for women who may experience depression during pregnancy is that they should remember that what they’re feeling does not define them as a person.
“It’s not your fault, and you’re not alone,” she said. “There is help out there; there is treatment out there. That is my goal – to be able to help every woman feel that despite what they are experiencing, they can get help.”
More information on how to get help with perinatal or post-partum depression can be found on kassyskause.org