The Australian actress best known for her role as Kate Warner on 24, Newcastle’s Sarah Wynter has revealed the trauma and heartache of post-partum psychosis in an interview on 60 Minutes.

Talking to Sarah Abo from New York, Sarah shared the devastation and fear that enveloped her after the birth of twin boys in 2011. The actress and her then husband, Dan Peres, had a son, Oscar in 2008, and after two failed rounds of IVF and a miscarriage, found out that she was carrying twin boys.

Stepping away from the Hollywood limelight to continue to grow her family, Sarah’s mental health took an unimaginable turn for the worse after her sons, Sam and Julian, arrived six weeks early and she became obsessed with germs.

“I was thrilled,” she told 60 Minutes. “Now I’ve got my family and all my dreams have come true. I had no reason to expect the horror that would come my way.”

The mum of twins found the Neo Natal Intensive Care extremely stressful with the beeping noises putting her on edge. She admitted that was when her mental health started to deteriorate, adding “I’d go home and hear the beeps at night, and every beep at home would start to really rattle me.”

And when Sam and Julian came home from hospital, she was terrified that her then three-year-old, Oscar, would bring home meningitis from nursery school and everyone would die. She admits that she’d “strip him down, clean him, wash his face and brush his teeth” as soon as he got home.

But that was just the half of it.

After the birth of Oscar, Sarah could not have imagined the pain that was to follow the births of Sam and Julian.

The paranoia about hygiene and germs grew and Sarah noted that one of her babies’ nurses wore scrubs, which gave her an idea.

“I thought, scrubs are good! I’ll order some scrubs. We’ll all wear scrubs. So I did and I added hair nets, masks, booties. And I’d bleach phones… I must have been told they were full of germs.” Sarah admits.

At the time, Sarah didn’t realise anything was seriously wrong with her mental health. She would go on to be diagnosed with postnatal depression with psychosis – something that impacts 1 in 500 to 1 in 1000 women. Paranoia is one of the main symptoms of this devastating mental illness.

Sarah’s aunt Cathy Connell knew things weren’t quite right and flew to the US to be with her niece, but she had no idea how bad things were. Pre-COVID, quarantining after a flight wasn’t ‘a thing’ however, Cathy Connell agreed to spend 24 hours alone so she didn’t share any germs picked up on her journey.

But it wasn’t until she wasn’t she visited her niece and was given two sets of scrubs and a pair of clogs to wear around the house that she realised the severity of Sarah’s paranoia. It also became obvious that Sarah wasn’t sleeping, but staying up all night.

“It was tragic to watch. She was spiralling out of control,” Cathy told 60 Minutes. “She couldn’t manage her own life but wanted to micromanage every else’s.”

When Sarah starred in 24,  her family said “Now everyone knows who you are!”

Things continued to spiral out of control and Sarah says “I saw catastrophe everywhere. I’m sure everything looked amazing, but in my head it was danger and everywhere I looked there as a potential for a catastrophic event. Whether it was a delivery man who was in disguise because he was actually a serial killer, or a tree that was going to fall or a speeding car.”

At one point she wondered if she was acting in a movie and playing an insane character, and when she woke up one morning to see loved ones around her bed she knew there was an intervention.

Cathy Connell broke down as she recalled that time.

“She was shocked and tears, I know. I know why you’ve come” says her aunt. “And I thought, she’s on the first steps to the road that might get her through this.”

 

 

Sarah is talking about her experience so others know they aren’t alone.

By talking about her own postpartum psychosis, the 49-year-old actress has used her lived experience to shine a light on maternal mental health executive producer on the 2021 movie A Mouthful of Air.

Starring Amanda Seyfried as a successful children’s author, the character battles depression and it rears its ugly head again after the birth of her second child. Sarah says it’s “a cautionary tale about what happens if you don’t get help” and that it makes her feel “really really lucky that that wasn’t my story”.

Sarah now lives with her three teenage boys and laughs that while her house is loud and “they are extraordinary kids and they are the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me”.

 

Anyone having trouble coping with pregnancy or post childbirth can visit www.panda.org.au or call the PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306 Mon to Fri, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT.