In Spirit: Longhorn Honeys Honor Alumna Who Succumbed to Postpartum Depression


The members of the spirit group Longhorn Honeys remember Abigail Ragobar (née Young Sing), BS ’10, for having a smile that could light up any room. While studying biology at UT, she was known for her kindness, her dancing skills, and her unique accent (she was from Trinidad and Tobago). As a member of the Longhorn Honeys, Ragobar teemed with unlimited school spirit and never hesitated to show it off.

But in September 2016, the group was dismayed to learn that the former member and young mother had taken her own life.

When Ragobar graduated from UT, she headed back to her homeland, where she married and had a daughter. Though her college friends kept in contact with her mainly via Facebook, anyone could see that she loved being a mom. “She was so happy,” says Stephannie Bernal, BJ ’10, who recruited Ragobar into the group in 2005. “Her daughter was the light of her life.”

Then, in early 2016, Ragobar gave birth to a son. That’s when things appear to have changed. According to relatives, Ragobar suffered from postpartum depression after having her second child. They say depression, coupled with grief from the death of a grandparent, led her to jump 40 feet from her home early in the morning on Sept. 5, 2016. She died three days later from injuries she sustained.

“We were all so clueless,” says Mia Vieira, BS ’07, who was president of the Longhorn Honeys when Ragobar joined the group. “This lovable, charming, sweet human being was feeling these things, and nobody knew it.”

While postpartum depression is still a taboo subject, it shouldn’t be—up to one in seven new mothers experience it, according to the American Psychological Association. While many postpartum women get “baby blues” (a feeling of sadness that can last for up to two weeks after delivery), postpartum depression is a more severe, long-lasting form of depression that can make it difficult for new moms to care for themselves and their children.

Ragobar’s death hit home for Bernal, who suffered from postpartum depression herself. “I got the treatment I needed, and I’m so sad that Abby wasn’t able to get that help,” she says. Shortly after Ragobar’s death, Bernal took to Facebook to organize their Longhorn Honey friends to see if anyone would be interested in donating money to Postpartum Support International and to buy a commemorative tile for Ragobar at UT. The group quickly raised $1,465.

“This is a great way to honor her, as UT was a big part of her life and needs to be remembered about her,” says Naomi Tracy, BA ’10, who was in the same Longhorn Honeys recruiting class as Ragobar.

While postpartum depression isn’t widely studied, Marci Gleason, a UT assistant professor of human development and family sciences, hopes to change that. She’s currently leading The Daily Living Project, which studies the transition to parenthood for both new mothers and fathers. “As much as we think of having a baby as a joyful thing, it’s also really hard—especially in the beginning,” Gleason says. “There are physical changes for women; you get no sleep; there’s breastfeeding to master. It’s not an easy transition for couples or individuals.”

She and her team are recruiting expecting couples for the study now and plan to focus on the three months prior to their baby being born to one year postpartum. “The goal is to find out how daily experiences of parenthood affect relationships and their moods,” Gleason says.

For the former Longhorn Honeys members, holding true to their commitment to UT and to service has taken on a new importance and focus. “Postpartum depression is a silent killer,” Vieira says. “I wish people talked about it more.”

Illustration by Eileen Wu

 

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