This year, the event grew exponentially, with 1,600 climbers from 41 states and nine countries, including England, Switzerland, Mexico, Malaysia, South Africa and Australia, raising a total of $165,000, quadruple the amount raised the year before. It has become the largest event in the world raising awareness of maternal mental illness, according to Postpartum Progress.
"For many of these women, it's the first time they've ever told their story. It's the first time they've asked people to support by donating money," said Stone, adding that many of the climbers have been interviewed by local television stations and newspapers. "They're all having absolute heart attacks with me ahead of time, and I keep reminding them (to) keep focused on the fact that there's a woman in the audience who needs to hear what you have to say."
One of those first-time climbers this year was Raivon Lee, a mom of a 17-month-old, who cried every day for months after her son was born. In her email to family and friends asking for support as she planned to climb an Atlanta-area mountain, she revealed how at the lowest point of her postpartum depression and anxiety, "the thought of death was actually a peaceful thought."
"It's really a very scary place to be, and I really don't think people get it, but I don't think I got it before it happened to me," said Lee, who worked as a nurse before becoming a mom. "If I can just help one mom feel a little bit better or just get help, then it makes me so extremely happy."
Lesley Neadel of Hoboken, New Jersey, climbed for the second time this year. She suffered from severe postpartum depression and anxiety when her daughter was born three and a half years ago, and is now six months pregnant with her second child. She knows she could battle depression and anxiety again.
"I'm focusing on how good I feel now and that if I find myself feeling badly again, I have support systems at the ready at this point," she said.
One of those support systems includes Postpartum Progress, which she said she came across when she was searching online, trying to find a community of women who might understand what she was going through.
"I found Postpartum Progress and suddenly was reading exactly my symptoms and stories of women who had been through what I had, who had it worse than I had," said Neadel, a public relations executive in New York City. "Just finding that community, knowing you're not alone has been unbelievable."
Much more progress needed
While Stone believes there is more awareness today than when she started what has become a mission 10 years ago, and that women are finding a safe place to connect with other women who know exactly what they're going through, she still believes there is a lot more work to do.
She still hears stories from women who said their doctors told them they were suffering from the baby blues, which would eventually go away, or not to take medication because it could shrink their brains or who told them they were fine as long as they didn't want to kill themselves or their baby.
Women are still "getting treated horribly, there's still stigma, they're still not getting the right kind of help," said Stone.
More also needs to be done to educate and help lower income women, said Stone, noting how studies show the number of women in high poverty areas suffering from postpartum depression can be almost double the number of moms battling the illness nationwide.
Only 15 percent of those who ever get a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder get treated, which means that the 85 percent who don't get treatment could have chronic mental illness throughout their lives, dramatically impacting the mental health of their children, according to a report by Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child.
Stone wants to see more research into the underlying causes of the illness and the development of more targeted treatments, with the goal of one day being able to identify women ahead of time who are most at risk.
Additional and improved screening are also needed, she said. Many women say no one ever talked with them about depression or mood and anxiety disorders while they were pregnant or after giving birth.
The only reason I knew about the illnesses and was on the lookout for any signs during my two pregnancies and after my deliveries was because of news stories I had reported. I don't remember reading about them in any of the pregnancy prep books and don't recall my OB/GYN or pediatrician ever asking me about them either.
Today the most common screening is a questionnaire to try and assess how a new mom feels about herself and her baby called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. New mothers are asked to answer questions such as whether they have been anxious or worried for no good reason, if they have had difficulty sleeping, if they are feeling sad and miserable and if the thought of harming themselves had ever occurred to them.
One of the issues, said Stone, is that the questionnaire, if given out at all, is often given to women soon after childbirth when a new mom has a hard time focusing on just about anything, let alone being able to reflect on whether her feelings at that moment are out of the ordinary.
Motivation from the women
What keeps Stone going, even when she feels anxious about how much her blog and nonprofit have grown, are the emails and comments she gets from women, comments like "It wasn't until I read this that I knew what was going on" or "I thought I was a horrible mother" or "I've just called my doctor."
"When I realize that what we're doing is not only raising awareness but facilitating people into treatment, that we are convincing them that it's OK to call and ask for help, I (know) we've hit on something," she said.
When women started writing and asking if they could tattoo the logo of Postpartum Progress, an image of what Stone calls a "warrior mom," she could not quite believe it.
"Holy crap. What happened here?" she remembered feeling at the time. "We're going to keep going. We've hit a nerve and women needed this. They needed this."
For all the daughters