BYU Alumna Emily Cook Dyches left this world on February 24, 2016 after experiencing a panic attack and running into oncoming traffic. This panic attack was a result of a perinatal mood disorder that Emily was living and suffering with.
Emily gradated from the BYU McKay School of Education and taught elementary school following her graduation. She was an affectionate and attentive mother, regardless of the PPD she suffered with, according to her husband, Eric Dyches.
Perinatal mood disorder, or postpartum depression (PPD), is triggered after the birth of a child. Mothers experience many emotions throughout pregnancy and after giving birth, including depression.
Emily had been suffering with PPD after she gave birth to her fifth child, Trey, in March 2015. Soon after the birth, she began to experience several symptoms of PPD.
“Her sensitivity to small matters was overly heightened and her ability to reason seemed impaired,” Eric said.
The couple soon sought professional attention and Emily was diagnosed with PPD and anxiety. She was treated for the following several months. Although there were were times when symptoms would digress, they would soon return, leading to her tragic passing this last February.
Despite the overwhelming sadness the night of Emily’s passing, Eric has been able to find some semblance of peace.
“I was feeling a lot of emotions. I was left as a single father and I had lost my sweetheart of 17 years. I felt this compelling feeling to never forget her and learn from what I had been through,” Eric said. “That night I felt like what I was seeing was not an accurate depiction of who she was or the life she lived. I felt like I wanted a to have a mechanism to memorialize her.”
Thus, The Emily Effect was born.
Eric explained that the idea of the foundation was originally initiated by Emily’s brother. Eric describes the progression of the foundation as “miraculous.” All of the work done with the foundation is volunteer-based. One of Eric’s friends, Janean Rogers, manages the day-to-day efforts of the foundation.
The primary focus of the foundation is in Utah County. Eric and the board of The Emily Effect Foundation, made up of Emily’s siblings, are working to make the best system for maternal health possible so others dealing with PDD can get help.
“We are protecting them and we want them to have the confidence that they will be taken care of. We will take care of them. Their end will not be Emily’s,” Eric said.
The foundation is working with clinicians around Utah County to develop better models of treatment to help women, and further seeks to increase awareness regarding PPD and debilitating mood disorders.
Maternal mental health specialist Amy-Rose White has been a resource for Eric and the foundation as they have learned more about PPD and maternal mental health.
“There is a huge stigma regarding (PPD) specifically in Utah. There is a unique expectation of perfection here. There is a fear about coming forward,” Amy-Rose said. “Women are not educated about this issue, the risks or the resources.”
The Emily Effect Foundation is working with Amy-Rose to open up the conversation and end the stigma associated with PPD. One of the ways they are doing this right now is by offering inspiring letters of light.
The purpose of these letters, written by other mothers, is to help struggling moms find support from other mothers going through similar struggles.
“It has taken a lot of courage for these moms to open up. It is probably the most meaningful thing we are doing right now,” Eric said. “That is how Emily would want it.”
The foundation has received more than 100 Letters of Light, and although the foundation did not originally seek these letters, it welcomes them and wants all women to feel comfortable sharing their stories.
An additional look into Emily’s story is available through Dancing Without You, a documentary made by the BYU School of Communications.