Monday 21 October 2019

Heartbroken mother says murder-suicide 'brushed under carpet'

Una Butler warns that families need to have greater involvement in mental health care.
Una Butler warns that families need to have greater involvement in mental health care.

Ralph Riegel

A WOMAN whose husband killed their two children and then himself said it was "frightening" how many cases of murder-suicide were now occurring in Ireland.

Una Butler said Ireland had effectively "brushed under the carpet" the murder-suicide crisis now rocking local communities.

She is still struggling to recover from the nightmare of discovering that her husband John (41) had killed their two daughters, Zoe (6) and Ella (2), at their east Cork home on November 16, 2010.

He then took his own life a short distance from the family home in Ballycotton.

Ms Butler said she did not want to comment on specific cases, such as the tragedy in Cobh that claimed the lives of Michael (53) and Valerie (49) Greaney last Sunday.

But she said Ireland had to do something urgently so that lessons could be learned and future tragedies prevented.

"It is really frightening how frequently murder-suicides are now occurring in Ireland.

"But the only time you hear anyone calling for something to be done about them is when the media are writing about them happening.

"I am waiting four years for a review from the Health Service Executive (HSE). There needs to be major studies undertaken and greater supports and funding for the mental health system."

Una said her husband was left with absolutely no safety net after his treatment for mental health problems.

John had become very depressed over losing his job. She warned families needed to have greater involvement in mental health care.

"Patient confidentiality is important, but we shouldn't put it on such a pedestal. It is important that families are consulted and involved in treatment programmes.

"They are involved in cases like cancer care, so why not mental health? I believe it is all to do with the stigma over mental health cases."

Una pleaded for Ireland to learn lessons from Britain.

"Over there, a 24-page report is automatic when anyone dies in such circumstances within 12 months of having dealt with mental health services," she said.

"It is so important that reviews are undertaken so that people can learn lessons and ensure that future tragedies are prevented if at all possible."

Some €35m a year had been ring-fenced by government over a five-year period to deliver mental health services, but only €20m was made available for 2014.

Irish Independent

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