father creates foundation that helps women with postpartum depression after he loses wife to suicide

Father Creates Foundation That Helps Women With Postpartum Depression After He Loses Wife To Suicide

When Steven D’Achille heard his infant daughter crying, who was at home with his wife Alexis, he knew something was wrong.

In just minutes, he found Alexis, 30, had attempted suicide. Two days later, on October 10, 2013, she died in a hospital ICU.

father creates foundation that helps women with postpartum depression after he loses wife to suicide
Image via STEVEN D’ACHILLE

Ever since that tragic day, Steven has felt led to help other mothers like Alexis get the help they need.

Just 15 days before her death, the couple went to a total of seven hospitals and facilities but each time, they were turned away.

“Alexis knew she was in trouble,” Steven, 39, of Pittsburgh, PA, shared with PEOPLE. “She was abundantly clear with what she was scared would happen. But it was always, ‘Go home. You’re not crazy.’ ” 

When the two met in 2008, they quickly knew it was meant to be. “We locked eyes, and from then on, we were inseparable,” he says. 

father creates foundation that helps women with postpartum depression after he loses wife to suicide
Image via STEVEN D’ACHILLE

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The two married in 2009 and the pregnancy went off without a hitch. “She was radiant and all the things you hear about pregnant women,” Steven recalls.

But when Alexis gave birth on Aug. 30, 2013, to Adriana, she had a “code blue” delivery where Adriana’s umbilical cord had become wrapped multiple times around her neck. 

And while Adriana was born healthy, the birth trigged postpartum depression, including suicidal thoughts and hallucinations, and then postpartum psychosis. The latter is a rare mental illness that was believed to be linked to Alexis’s family history of bipolar disorder.

“My wife believed that her first act of being a mother was damaging her daughter,” says Steven, who works in his family’s restaurant business. “She just unraveled.” 

“It was immediate,” Steven adds, “and every day was worse than the previous,” in regards to the depression.

father creates foundation that helps women with postpartum depression after he loses wife to suicide
Image via STEVEN D’ACHILLE

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And while Alexis was prescribed antidepressants by her obstetrician her depression symptoms didn’t wane.

“She started overthinking everything,” he says. “She’d hear phantom baby cries, so she couldn’t sleep. She wouldn’t eat. She lost 50 lbs. in five and a half weeks.”

Right after death, Steven created the Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation to raise awareness and funds for those with perinatal anxiety and mood disorders. And in 2018, he opened the Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Perinatal Mental Health at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh with help from the Allegheny Health Network. The center offers therapy and childcare services, among other things, to pregnant women, new moms and their families. The program has already treated some 6,000 women. 

“It’s too late for Alexis, but my daughter, God willing, is going to have children one day, and I don’t want her to face roadblocks we faced,” Steven says. “We live in the greatest country in the world. How did a new mom not get the care that she needed?”

“It’s been my therapy,” he says. “I don’t want Alexis’s death to be for nothing.”

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