PITTSBURGH — His family owned pizza shops. Hers owned McDonald’s franchises. Alexis Joy Micale and Steven D’Achille met in 2008 and married in 2009.
They moved to Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood so he could join his family’s business. She began a job she loved, selling houses.Their daughter, Adriana, was born Aug. 30, 2013. Six weeks later, Alexis Joy D’Achille committed suicide.
Despite “never a day in her life” having mental health problems before her daughter’s birth, the 30-year-old suffered severe postpartum depression, starting when her daughter was about 3 weeks old.
Just weeks after her death, D’Achille began to raise money to promote awareness of the disease. From a gala at the Fairmont Hotel to small contributions from a moms’ group, donations poured in.
In its first 18 months, the Alexis Joy Foundation raised $250,000, giving $100,000 of that sum to Allegheny Health Network as a planning grant for research, prevention and treatment of postpartum depression.
The ultimate goal, for D’Achille, is for the group “to one day be the leading perinatal mood disorder program in the country.”
Postpartum depression, marked by symptoms such as confusion, sadness, hopelessness and guilt, initially can be difficult to distinguish from the “baby blues,” a short-lived condition that affects up to 70 percent of new mothers.
While the baby blues generally clears within a week or two, postpartum depression persists. It is most common in the three months after birth, although symptoms could start showing up as long as a year later.
Since starting to work with D’Achille this spring, AHN has distributed about 5,000 copies of a brochure, “Alexis’ Story,” with information about signs of postpartum depression and resources for treatment. The brochure is being distributed at childbirth classes, obstetricians’ offices, hospital discharges and well-baby visits.