Thank you to Gail Rosenblum for her column about postpartum depression and the incident involving a young Karen mother ("Empathy for those with postpartum depression," Nov. 29). Shwe Htoo was my student for a short time this year (until she went on maternity leave). I didn't have time to get to know her well, but I know she was very quiet and polite in my class.

The people who have posted hateful comments about her on social media have no understanding of what Htoo was dealing with. They should learn about mental illness in general, and specifically postpartum illnesses, before they judge her. They should also learn about the complex stresses and issues faced by refugees who come to this country.

In 2003, a wonderful family lost two loved ones to postpartum mental illness. Rather than pursue lawsuits against public servants who responded to the situation irresponsibly, the family chose to push legislation on postpartum mental illness. They were successful, but the issue hasn't been eradicated.

To continue reducing the frequency of this kind of incident, it is essential that we educate more people and reduce stigma associated with mental illnesses. By doing so, we will help mothers to get help when they need it, and we will save the lives of babies and mothers who are suffering.

Sheilah M. Seaberg, St. Paul.


The key to controlling pain meds is relationship with your doctor

In the past 18 months, I had two similar surgeries on my feet (first one, and then the other). I had to switch surgeons between surgeries because the first left the health organization where I was treated ("Minnesota confronts painkiller epidemic," Nov. 29). The first surgeon readily offered narcotic pain medications. At each follow-up appointment I was asked if I needed more pain medication (not "how is your pain level?" or "let's discuss your pain"). The second surgeon had a timeline as to when his patients should be finished with narcotic pain medications. Again, there was no discussion about pain level.

There was an assumption that my pain is not great enough to warrant narcotic pain medication and that I should be able to manage with over-the-counter remedies. I am not someone who stays on narcotic pain medication longer than needed after surgery, but I don't have a specific timeline as to when I will no longer need it.

I feel doctors need to do better in assessing pain and have real discussions with their patients about their specific situation and treat them accordingly. Are there people who will lie about their pain just to get more pain medication? Yes! Certainly, the state's approach will help with the doctor shopping by those who are addicted. But I think controlling the overprescribing of pain medications starts with the doctor/patient relationship.

Gretchen Scheffel, Apple Valley

• • •

I am surprised that I have not seen mention of the drug Soboxone. In 2002, the FDA approved the drug for the treatment of opioid addiction. It suppresses withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids, does not cause euphoria, blocks the effects of other opioid-type medications and lasts for at least 24 hours. You cannot overdose on Suboxone (taking more won't get you high), and it includes some pain relief. Success rates have been reported at 40 percent to 60 percent.

I successfully withdrew from a year on ever-increasing doses of Fentanyl patches and oxycodone tablets. I was being treated for four severe back problems that ultimately caused my disability and that qualified me for Social Security disability benefits. But Soboxone is almost impossible to get. Only two pain clinics that I found prescribe this drug.

I have weaned off the drug and now use other techniques to control my pain (including physical therapy, acupuncture, massage and spirituality.) Without Suboxone, I could not have withdrawn from opiates and been able to pursue the other ways of controlling my pain.

Bonnie Blankholm, Edina


There are other solutions besides striking a bargain for dirty energy

A letter writer suggests "we just might get a chance to see what Democrats are made of" (Readers Write, Nov. 29) by highlighting a defective choice emerging from the Republican side of the Legislature. In order to help the unemployed workers on the Iron Range, Democrats must agree to the establishment of a mining venture that many have opposed as potentially disastrous to the environment — the PolyMet mine — and the further proliferation of dirty energy by way of another petroleum pipeline. Is this the only way to create jobs on the Iron Range? Obviously not. If we invest the same resources in clean, renewable energy, we can achieve the desired outcome without further damaging the one and only world we live in. From this proposal, it's safe to say we know what this Republican is made of — the continuation of dirty energy and pollution.

Warren Blechert, Excelsior


Tax policy 'wonk' could still probably learn a thing or two

I read with interest the article "A tax wonk's thoughts upon leaving Legislature" by Lori Sturdevant (Opinion Exchange, Nov. 29). I hoped to find some interesting insights from an expert on how to improve a difficult problem. Not only were there no new ideas, but I found the subject of the article — Ann Lenczewski — to be anything but an expert.

The most telling passage in the article was her comparing a tax increase to increased spending: "If your college tuition goes up for your kid, it has the identical impact as a tax increase." This is simply pure liberal nonsense. There is a huge difference. A tax increase is imposed by the state — we have no option but to pay it, while an increase in tuition is optional — so you can choose to attend that school or shop for less-expensive options. My gosh, this is an expert in taxation and she doesn't understand the fundamental difference between taxes and spending?

Everything Lenczewski talked about in the article was about "smarter taxation." The only smarter tax I know is a lower one. Taxation is akin to slavery. It gives greater power to our state overlords and takes the power from the people. Fix our economic problems by "smarter spending," and stop wasting billions of dollars on things like sports stadiums and light rail, for a start. Let's get back to spending people's hard-earned money on the essentials only — and cut taxes.

Bob Larson, Woodbury