Experts: Former CT resident Lindsay Clancy, accused of killing kids, may have suffered postpartum psychosis

The home of Lindsay Clancy, where police say she strangled her three children last week in Duxbury, Mass. Clancy graduated from Quinnipiac University and Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford.

The home of Lindsay Clancy, where police say she strangled her three children last week in Duxbury, Mass. Clancy graduated from Quinnipiac University and Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford.

David L. Ryan/AP

Former Connecticut resident Lindsay Musgrove Clancy was likely suffering from postpartum psychosis — an intense mental illness — when she strangled her three children to death before attempting suicide in Massachusetts last week , according to a psychology experts.

Her husband Patrick posted an emotional note online, forgiving his wife who he said suffered from a condition, which he did not name, that "rapidly worsened."

"I want to ask all of you that you find it deep within yourselves to forgive Lindsay, as I have," he posted Saturday on the GoFundMe page started to help him recover.

"The real Lindsay was generously loving and caring towards everyone — me, our kids, family, friends and her parents. The very fibers of her soul are loving. All I wish for her now is that she can somehow find peace."

Mental health issues, especially in new mothers are often misunderstood and under-diagnosed, said Abbie Goldberg, clinical psychologist and psychology professor at Clark University in Worchester, Mass.

"Postpartum psychosis is real and may not manifest for weeks or months after the family brings home a baby," Goldberg said. "It is essential that we as a society become more knowledgeable about these conditions and signs that someone may be suffering."

Goldberg, who is an expert in postpartum, mental illness and maternal familicide, believes based on her understanding of the case that the 32-year-old Clancy was suffering from postpartum psychosis when authorities say she killed her two older children Cora, 5 and Dawson, 3, and gravely injured her baby, Callan, who was 7 months old when he died Friday at a Boston hospital.

Clancy jumped out of a second-story window in what is believed to be a suicide attempt before her husband returned to their home last Tuesday in Duxbury, Mass.

Clancy, who graduated from Quinnipiac University and Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford where neighbors say her parents still live , will be charged with murder, three counts of strangulation and three counts of assault and battery with a weapon when she is released from the hospital, an arrest warrant issued last week stated.

Goldberg said many people "rage against the parent" when these incidents occur, but she said the person likely has a serious mental illness.

"The vast majority of people who do something like this have something seriously wrong," Goldberg said.

About half of new mothers experience some form of the "baby blues" for a few weeks after giving birth, according to Goldberg and Dr. Javeed Sukhera, chair of psychiatry at the Institute of Living and the chief of psychiatry at Hartford Hospital.

"It's extremely common," Sukhera said.

But if a low mood, changes in energy levels or depression last longer than two weeks, the mother could be experiencing postpartum depression and should seek help, Sukhera said. Postpartum depression affects 10 to 20 percent of mothers, the clinicians said.

Postpartum depression can lead to a mother feeling detached from her new child, mood swings, changes in sleep and an inability to have fun, Sukhera said. Therapy and medication depending on the course of treatment can help, he said.

"It's important to have compassion and empathy for that person's experience," Sukhera said.

It was previously believed that the condition was related to hormones, but now it is understood that fathers and adoptive parents can also experience postpartum depression due to the stresses of bringing home a new baby, Goldberg said.

People who experience postpartum depression are more likely to have had a previous episode of depression, Goldberg said.

"It can very challenging," she said. "Sometimes people have a lack of access to treatment or a lack of access to parental support. The pressures on women are tremendous. There's a lot of joy in becoming a parent, but it's also stressful."

Postpartum psychosis is extremely rare, comprising about 0.01 to 0.02 percent of cases of postpartum depression, Goldberg and Sukhera said.

The condition is marked by hallucinations, delusions, hearing voices and a detachment from reality, Goldberg said. Only about 5 percent of those diagnosed with postpartum psychosis will attempt to harm themselves or their children, she said.

"The numbers are very small, but the cases are very serious," she said.

The Boston Globe reported that Clancy posted on Facebook last July about her previous struggles with postpartum anxiety — although that post appears to no longer exist online. Six weeks after the birth of her third child, Clancy posted that she was feeling “dialed in,” and that focusing on nutrition, mindset and exercise had “made all the difference,” the Globe reported.

Clancy was on leave as a labor and delivery nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital and attending an intensive program five days a week for postpartum depression, according to radio host John DePetro, whose show can be heard in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

People who are in treatment for postpartum depression still need plenty of support, Goldberg said. "People don't recognize this as a medical emergency," Goldberg said of postpartum psychosis. "If someone is having thoughts of harming themselves or their child, it should be taken very seriously."

At some point, Clancy will have to reckon with what happened, Goldberg said. "This is incredibly tragic," she said. "We're all grieving for these children. The question is what does justice look like in a situation like this?"

Those who are seeking help for postpartum depression can contact Postpartum Support International at 800-944-4773.

Staff writer Mark Zaretsky contributed to this story.