Monday 22 January 2018

Mother who lost two daughters and husband in tragedy: 'I believe the healthcare professionals have got this wrong'

Una Butler with her daughter Ella
Una Butler with her daughter Ella
Zoe Butler
Ella Butler
Zoe and Ella
Una Butler
Una Butler with her daughter Ella Newsdesk Newsdesk

A woman whose husband killed their two daughters before taking his own life has called for greater family involvement in the care of people with mental illness.

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, who is campaigning for greater involvement of families in mental-health treatment programmes, has expressed disappointment that a HSE review of John's psychiatric care has failed to take on board her calls for greater family involvement in the care of people with mental illness.

“The findings in the report suggest that the tragedy that befell me was not preventable,” Ms Butler told the Irish Examiner.

“I strongly believe that had there been greater involvement in the treatment of John, the outcome may well have been different.

“Filicide and suicide are not uncommon in Ireland. From research carried out, quite a number of these involved people who had prior contact with the psychiatric services.

“Clearly there are lessons to be learned here” she said.

“It is wrong not to take a collateral/corroborative history from the family. If that is not done and the current regime continues, then we are likely to have another tragedy.

“I am advocating for a change to ensure no other family has to suffer the terrible tragedy that I did.”

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.

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

Una's husband John had been receiving help for his mental health problems but she was not aware of just how severe his depression truly was. He had been released from hospital just six weeks before the tragedy.

Since her loved ones' deaths, heartbroken Una has vowed to courageously campaign for a more open mental-health care system to ensure no other family endured her agony.

The findings of a clinical review of Mr Butler's care were revealed to her on Wednesday.

She expressed disappointment with the findings.

"I believe the healthcare professionals have got this wrong."

“They focus on the person who is in front of them and of course, whilst this is right and correct, there is a failure to realise that the person that they are treating is interacting and has relations with a circle of people, be they family or friends," she told the Irish Examiner.

“The person, whilst not living in isolation, is treated in isolation. I strongly believe that this is wrong.”

She said while patient confidentiality is important and should be protected, it is also important that the family and children are considered and included in the care regime.

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