Friday 30 September 2016

Depression key factor in murders of children by parents

Published 01/09/2015 | 02:30

Una Butler with her daughter Ella
Una Butler with her daughter Ella

Almost half the murder-suicide cases in Ireland over the past 15 years were found to have depression or other mental-health issues as a major factor.

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The revelation came as a leading UK researcher, Professor Colin Pritchard of the University of Bournemouth, said another factor in such tragedies was income inequality.

In some cases, this involved an overwhelming fear of a family’s future financial plight, given outside factors such as unemployment and rising debt.

Since 2000, there have been more than 30 murder-suicide cases in Ireland and over 40 children have been killed.

Ireland now has one of the highest per capita rates of murder-suicide involving children in the world.

The second International Addressing Filicide Conference in Italy concluded with an appeal for further research into the triggers and warning signs of murder-suicides – and greater education in the community.

“The common view was that the entire community needed education on filicide (killing of a child by a parent), its existence, its risk factors, the difficulties for the other parent in gaining support and action from services,” the conference advised.

“It was noted that friends and family are the first to be approached by a concerned parent and so information as to what to do needs to be widely dispersed.”

Cork mother Una Butler lost her two daughters, Zoe (6) and Ella (2), and her husband, John (43), in a horrific murder-suicide five years ago.

John had been suffering from depression and took his own life minutes after killing his adored little girls in the family’s home in November 2010.

Ms Butler has compiled new statistics for Ireland’s murder-suicide or filicide crisis.

“From the statistics that I compiled, depression/mental illness was a major factor in at least 13 out of 29 cases here,” she said.

In the last five murder-suicide cases in Ireland, the adults involved in four of them had known mental-health issues.

Ms Butler now wants families to be briefed on mental-health treatment programmes.

She also wants patient confidentiality rules relaxed when an adult undergoing treatment for a mental health issue is living in a family environment with children.

Irish Independent

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