'Anxiety building' as family searches for mom with postpartum depression
Published Thursday, October 27, 2016 9:10AM PDT Last Updated Sunday, October 30, 2016 6:33PM PDT
A new father has barely slept in two days as he waits for word from his missing wife, believed to be suffering from post-partum depression.
New Westminster resident Florence Leung hasn't been seen since she drove away from her family home Tuesday. Officials are concerned for her safety.
"As time goes on, more and more anxiety is building. I'm trying to think on the bright side," her husband Kim Chen told CTV Vancouver.
The 32-year-old’s Audi Q5 was discovered Wednesday, giving police and her loved ones an area to focus their search.
Leung's car was found near Prospect Point, and search and rescue crews spent the afternoon and night searching Stanley Park for signs. North Shore Rescue joined in the search, combing the park but finding nothing.
"We're looking behind logs, under anything, anywhere a person could be hidden," said Peter Haigh, NSR search manager.
Chen said the part of Stanley Park where her car was reported abandoned has some significance for his wife.
"She was here a few days after she was discharged from hospital," Chen said. "We took her here and she had a good time looking at the scenery at Prospect Point… Florence was smiling, the first time I saw her smile in weeks, over here."
North Shore Rescue has called off its search of Stanley Park after finding no signs of the woman, but her family and police continue to look for Leung.
A neighbour who is friends with the couple said the disappearance was out of character for Leung, whom he knew to be positive and outgoing, but he said she'd been going through a "tough time" recently.
"We're doing our best to help... Everyone's been quite supportive," Jason Russell said.
Leung had been receiving treatment for post-partum depression for the past week, but left her medication at home. Friends told CTV News she has her cellphone, but it has been turned off.
Her husband said she hadn't been acting like herself lately, likely due to the depression.
"She started to mumble, 'I can't do this, I can't do this,'" he said.
"Her eyes would be darting around."
Although her behavior had changed, she had never mentioned hurting herself or anyone else to her husband. However, she had told her mother "she wanted to quit. She told her mom once that she wanted to die," Chen said.
"In front of me, she tried to hold it together pretty well," he said, but he'd seen her pacing and fidgeting recently.
Leung has been described as high-achieving and a "perfectionist."
The day that she disappeared, Chen left for work while his wife cleaned baby bottles. She kissed him on the cheek as he left, telling her he'd be home at 6 p.m.
On his lunch break, he received messages from his sister-in-law and mother-in-law, saying they couldn't find Leung. They said her car was gone, and the back door was unlocked. She'd left without telling them she was leaving, or saying where she was going.
Leung's family continues to search for signs of the missing mother, while friends and loved ones take care of her two-month-old son, Aiden.
Her husband is trying to stay hopeful. When asked if he had a message for his wife, he said: "Florence, I really miss you and love you. Please just find anyone who is around you. They'll find help for you."
Chen said she is his best friend and his biggest supporter, and he wants her to be happy.
Sheila Duffy, director of the Pacific Post Partum Support Society, said Leung's mental illness is "like any depression," and it can worsen if left untreated.
"It's not uncommon for people to just feel like, 'I wish I could just take off and not come back,'" she said.
Duffy said there is a lot of stigma around postpartum depression, but as many as one in six mothers experiences it at some point. Symptoms are different in everyone, but for many, the focus is on feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
Those with postpartum are often unable to sleep properly, and have racing thoughts. Many feel guilty because they don't feel happy, or feel like something is wrong with them.
"That adds to the feelings of not doing it right, or failing at motherhood," Duffy said.
She said the best thing people can do for someone who is suffering is to be supportive, and that for mothers, talking to someone can change things.
"Often, just one phone call can make a big shift," she said.
"The good news is that you do get better, but when you're in it and you're trying to get better, it can feel like forever. It can feel pretty scary."
Anyone who believes they might have seen Leung, who is described as 5-foot-6 with a slim build and long, black hair, to call police immediately.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim