Is having PND an excuse for murder.

Elisabeth - posted on 06/17/2010 ( 32 moms have responded )

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This one will also get some heated replies. Over the last year or so I have noticed quite a few news reports of mothers with newborns claiming they murdered their babys because they were suffering from post natal depression. Close to where I used to live a mother drowned her newborn twin sons and only got sent to a mental assylum for 7 months and was not convicted of murder, but something (can't remember exactly what it's called) else that basically said that she did it because she was depressed. I'm not saying PND is not serious, but I don't think it merits murdering your child. Basically a mother can get so angry at their newborn and kill them and not even go to jail, or get a very short jail term because they claim they were depressed, even if they were never diagnosed with it. And people feel sorry for them! If any one else, such as a young man said he murdered someone because he was depressed I hardly think that would hold up in court, so why should new mothers get away with it. What do you think, do you think they should be 'taken easy on' or should they be treated like any other murderer?

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Mary - posted on 06/18/2010

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So many thoughts....so little time!

As several of you have pointed out, there is a HUGE difference between post-partum depression and psychosis. Those few rare souls who develop psychosis are just that - psychotic. They are truly unable to differentiate between right and wrong, or reality and hallucinations/delusions. If I remember correctly, the women mentioned in the OP not only had a history of mental illness, but was deemed to be truly psychotic at the time she killed her twins. If ANY one should be held criminally responsible in that case, it is her family for not effectively intervening, and for EVER leaving her alone with those babies. Trust me, if she had, say, broken both her legs, or had ruptured her appendix, her family would never have expected her to care for 7 month old babies by herself. Problem here was that her husband and family failed both her and those babies.

Did she kill her children? Yes.
Do I consider it "murder"? No, nor do I think she should have been held criminally responsible. She is not a sociopathic killer who, once properly treated, is a danger to society. Honestly, what good would adding jail time do to this situation (other than costing the taxpayers even more money) ? Yes, it is a heartbreaking story, but I truly believe the "responsible" party is not the psychotic mother, but the husband. To me, leaving those twins alone with her is akin to me leaving my daughter home alone with my 2 dogs all day, and expecting them to properly care for her and keep her safe. If I came home after 8 hours, and found that she had died from falling down the steps, would you blame me, or my dogs?

I don't think that post partum depression is an "excuse" for murder, nor do I think that the bulk of women who are afflicted by it are in danger of killing their children. I do think that we as a society often fail to acknowledge or intervene properly when new mothers are exhibiting symptoms of this illness, which causes many cases to get a whole lot worse than they ever have to be. Most times, women who suffer this do NOT recognize it for what it is, nor do they poseess the necessary energy,motivation, or understanding to go about seeking treatment. As other threads have demonstrated, they are also often lacking support or understanding from their partners, friends, or other close family members.

Johnny - posted on 06/17/2010

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Actually, most of the mothers who have murdered their children in these cases are suffering from post-natal psychosis as opposed to post-natal depression. Hearing voices, getting "messages" and stuff like that. I do not think that any form of depression is really an excuse for violence, and I think most people who have been depressed would agree. However, when a person is suffering psychosis, they are not in their right mind, they are unable to discern reality, and they are not at all able to see that there is something wrong with them. Most people know that they have a problem when they are depressed, even if they have a hard time admitting it. People suffering from psychosis or a psychotic break are often not capable of realizing that something in them has snapped. So in those cases, it is a justifiable defense.

Charlie - posted on 06/18/2010

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Everyone has already said most of what i think , i agree with Carol but i just want to add women with PPD /PND often give out alarming warning signs some even flat out , cry out for help , if it comes to the point where they haven't received the support they need and they commit a crime then i feel those who ignored the warning signs and turned their backs are just as guilty !

ME - posted on 06/19/2010

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I've been thinking lately that I may have had a mild case of PND after Mayah was born. I haven't had the courage to say anything about it to anyone before now...I didn't "like" her; she looked funny (misshapen, bruised, baby acne everywhere) and SO pathetic! Miles had been such a beautiful baby, and my little sister's daughter (2 mos older than Mayah) was GORGEOUS! She also had bad colic or something...she screamed every night for hours, and I wasn't getting any sleep. I resented that I couldn't spend as much time with Miles. I would cry every time I had to feed her. I was stuck in bed in my room for ten days due to my c-section and needing to stay on the same floor as the bathroom. I felt isolated and angry. I felt like a horrible person and a bad mother because I didn't "like" this poor little baby I'd been waiting SO long for. I didn't tell a soul because I was embarrassed and upset with myself...

I started feeling better as soon as my staples were taken out...it was slow, probably ending completely when Mayah was around 6 weeks or maybe 2 months. Anyway...my point is, I can totally imagine why a woman would not ask for help...It's a horrible feeling, and I felt totally ashamed; I didn't want to tell anyone, not even my husband...I never thought about hurting her...but I did get to the point where I REALLY didn't want to feed her (which would be pretty bad if I'd done it). I'm glad that it didn't get any worse for me, and got better so quickly...but I don't think judging women who go through this is appropriate...I think more education could be helpful, I wish my doctor had asked me how I was feeling...

Rosie - posted on 06/19/2010

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i;m a little torn on this one. i suffered from PPD with all 3 of my children, and my first child it was horrible. i was single, no help, too proud to ask for help and i was miserable. i don't know how to explain how i felt, but i resented grant, alot. i knew something was wrong with me when grant was crying one time, and i started to shake him. i stopped myself, and i never did it again, but i was too deeply ashamed of what i had done, and how i had made a complete mess of my life, and didn't want anyone to know that i wasn't handling the situation i put myself in. i can see how some people totally lose control.

do i think it's an excuse for murder, no. i knew what i was doing, i had full control over my thoughts and actions. i would've been responsible if i had hurt him. post natal psychosis is different and i believe it does excuse someone, they have no longer any control over their actions.

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Katherine - posted on 06/20/2010

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Whoa that was fast. I agree to an extent. I think the chemical imbalance is very important. If that isn't addressed then the person will remain stagnant in their mentality and follow through with whatever plan or compulsion they have.

Katherine - posted on 06/20/2010

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No, we should not have to do it on our own, Laura. You gave a good example of someone who was SCREAMING they needed help and everyone just backed off....again, like Andrea Yates.





The question is: WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE? The ones who turn the other way? The ones who rationalize? Society? A chemical Imbalance? Or the person?

ME - posted on 06/20/2010

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Laura...that is exactly what I meant by I didn't "like" Mayah...I felt NO connection to her at all...I certainly didn't feel like her mother. That connection and feeling had been IMMEDIATE with Miles, so I didn't understand what was wrong with me! I had heard of PPD, etc., but I didn't know that was what I had (if it was). My doc never asked any questions about how I was doing attaching to the baby, or how I was feeling, or if I was getting any sleep. I was on the verge of crying or actually crying for about 3 weeks straight, and all everyone did was gush over how wonderful she was, and how lucky I was, etc...I didn't feel any of those things...I just felt defective! New moms all experience that "oh you're so lucky, she/he is so perfect and sweet, and you must just be in love, etc, etc...". When you DON'T feel those things, it's very alarming! It's very scary to even think about telling someone that you don't feel them.

Rosie - posted on 06/20/2010

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there was a woman in a town near mine that tried to kill her children on 2 seperate occasions, the second time she succeeded in killing her 2 year old by slashing his throat, her 7 year old son survived his attack. she's tried to commit suicide 3 times, and on one questionable occasion she drove her van into the iowa river in the middle of december -with her children in the van. passers by saved her and her children. all of these cries for help, and she is still left to go off and PLAN to kill her children. she bought the knife and duct tape 2 months prior to their attacks. she needed help and her husband didn't help. now her baby is dead and she's spending the rest of her life in prison, and her oldest boy has to live with the fact that his mom tried to kill him. i wish he could spend some time in jail for his ignorance.

Isobel - posted on 06/20/2010

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I also think it's very sad that our society encourages women to do it on their own. In any other culture, when a baby is born all the friends and family come together and help the new mother cook, clean, and take care of the baby so that she can get some rest and recuperate. Here, we take pride in being the perfect mother, doing it all by ourselves...I don't think that it should be that way.

When my daughter was born i didn't feel any connection to her, I kept waiting for her "real" mother to come get her...the idea that I was her mother was so beyond belief that I couldn't fathom it...then she didn't sleep more than an hour for3 or 4 months, and no, I didn't actually shake her but I did maniacally rock her to sleep one night chanting "don't shake the baby" so yeah, I get it.

Katherine - posted on 06/20/2010

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I just found this article on PPD and I was going to share it and start a new conversation, but I won't since there already is one. IMO women with PPD ARE very sick if it's not treated. If family members see signs and aren't doing anything re: Andrea Yates, THEY are to blame. There is a major chemical imbalance. It's not about "meriting" the murder of your child. Women with PPD act very compulsively, and desperately. They also have major anger issues and very little coping skills. My heart breaks to hear of babies being murdered, but an asylum is the best place for these women.



http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/201...



http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/200...







The mother doesn't have the capacity to be as responsive to the infant and studies show there is an actual chemical imbalance.

Sharon - posted on 06/20/2010

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I went back to read some of my comments - I think I need a living will - geeze, "I would have myself sterilised if I ever became psychotic" or something to that effect. Um, ooops.

What I MEANT was if I recovered from the psychosis, i would have myself sterilised to prevent it from happening again. Depression was bad enough.

But I also thought about who would be in control if that happened? I want specific treatment to get over that, helped through it, whatever, and I would not want to be left in charge of soooo many situations & things. So a living will would be a help... IF I were going to have more kids... which I'm not, lol.

Mary - posted on 06/20/2010

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Lea - we all learn as we go.

My friend's experience almost 7 years ago taught me a lot about post partum depression, and how to not only screen for it, but how to go about recognizing and effectively helping someone suffering from it.

Professionally, I only see patients in the labor and delivery period. However, I ask some very pointed questions on their admission history to screen for risk factors, and if any red flags pop up, I make it a point to discuss the risks, and signs, with both them and their support people. If something happens during the birthing process that increases their risk, suck as a pp hemmorhage, or severe pre-eclampsia, I talk to them and thier families about it. I also try to say something to their docs about my concerns that a perticular patient may be at risk, and ask them to make a point to screen for it at the six week check-up.

My friend's practice learned a lesson from her as well, through me. I was fortunate enough to be in a position, professionally, and personally, to talk candidly with both the doc she saw in the office, as well as the others in her practice about Michelle's experience...and why they missed the boat with her at that six week visit. I know for a fact that it changed how they conduct that six week check-up. It is hard, since OB's aren't all that skilled in the mental health field, and they are often so busy adressing the PHYSICAL concerns of their patients that the mental and emotional state of their patients falls by the wayside. However, they are typically the only health care provider that a woman sees during pregnancy and immediately after. I don't think the responsibility of treating this falls to them, but screening for it, and recognizing it should, so that they can steer woman to the appropriate health professionals that can.

Becky - posted on 06/19/2010

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I don't think there is any excuse for murder. But, I also agree that a person who has psychosis is not in their right mind and does not realize that they are murdering their child. I do think treatment in a psychiatric facility is a much better solution for someone who murders their child because she is suffering from post partum psychosis than jail time is. But I don't think 7 months is a long enough term. Actually, I don't think a time limit should be set on it. It should be until her doctors deem that she is no longer a risk to herself or anyone else.
I'd be a little reluctant to see someone who had post partum psychosis and murdered their child as a result, have another child. But then, many women I know who had severe post partum depression made the decision themselves not to have any more children biologically, so as not to risk that again.
And yeah, I always wonder where the families were in this situation. IMO, they should be held criminally responsible for the children's deaths!

Lea - posted on 06/19/2010

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Mary thanks for sharing the part about the PP hemorrhage. I had one myself and no medical person ever told me what the effects might be and never asked my family to help me that I know of because they sure didn't.

Lea - posted on 06/19/2010

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The mom isn't the only one to blame. There are plenty of people around her that should have helped out and people just have their own lives and don't care. If you get to little sleep you will go insane. Its just a fact. And its usually plain to see when someone is going insane.

Mary - posted on 06/19/2010

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Mary Elizabeth, thank you so much for sharing such a personal and (I'm sure) difficult time for you. I know that you are not alone in your experiences.

Although this is something that I did not go through, my closest friend in this world did. Although she had an "easy" birth with her daughter, she developed a SEVERE pp hemmorhage, and damn near died. This is a huge risk factor for pp depression, which she had, in spades.

I remember her talking about her 6 week check-up, and her rage and frustration after leaving the office. She felt like hell, and was on the verge of tears the whole time. She said her doc, from the moment she walked into the room, just gushed on effusively about how wonderful she looked, and how pretty the baby was. She described it as a non-stop pep talk about how "wonderful" everything was, and how great she was doing. It left my friend feeling unable to share how sad, angry, lost, and unable to cope she was truly feeling. The doctor never REALLY asked how things were, nor did she give her an opportunity to talk about anything remotely negative. All of the doc's enthusiasm left her feeling guilty about how unhappy she was.

The sad part? My friend is a CRNA, who had worked with this doc as an L&D nurse before becoming an anesthetist. If SHE felt unable to seek help, or divulge what was really going on to a doc she knew both personally and professionally, I can only imagine how a "normal" person must feel.

Erin - posted on 06/19/2010

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I totally agree with Carol and Mary. Standard PND is entirely different to Post-Natal Psychosis. I agree that we all must take responsibility for our own mental health, and seek help when necessary. But the whole point of a psychosis diagnosis is that the patient has lost touch with reality. Once in that state, the onus then falls to the family to get the woman appropriate treatment and protect any children involved IMO.

I don't believe that a mother who harms her children while suffering from Post-Natal Psychosis belongs in prison. The mere fact that she will have to live with the horrible ramifications of her illness is punishment enough. It's not about letting them 'get away with it'. However horrific, crimes like this are not pre-meditated or evil. They are the result of an ill woman slipping through the cracks.

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With PPD/PND you still have some rational control over your actions. Whatever they happen to feel, most people still have that inbuilt sense of right and wrong and wouldn't go as far to kill.

Post natal psychosis though, a person wouldn't know they've crossed a line because they are no longer thinking rationally to seek help or to understand the consequences of their actions. These women don't need prison they need time in a mental instition to get help for their condition, correct medications, and constant checks on release.

Whoever left a women showing signs of severe PND, verging on PNP, in sole responsibility of care over an infant needs to be charged for manslaughter!

C. - posted on 06/18/2010

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Quoting LaCi: "I can completely see how it could cause a mother to kill all it would take is for the loathing to extend past one's self, and I do think it should be taken into consideration."



First of all, I just wanted to say that I was a mom who thought about committing suicide a time or two when I was going through PPD. I NEVER ONCE thought about hurting my child. I would hurt myself before putting a hand on my child. And there was a time right when I first had my son that I resented him, as if anything that was going on was really his fault. But it happened, and I still never thought about hurting my baby. I don't understand how anyone could think about harming the child they gave birth to, or even an adopted child, but that's kind of another debate anyway.



I think it's more than the self-loathing extending past one's self.. I think it's where the person won't allow themselves to snap back into reality to realize that their baby/child is just an innocent bystander in everything that's going on.



Anyway, I agree with you to an extent.. I, personally, think it's something a bit more than that, though.

Elisabeth - posted on 06/18/2010

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Ok with the example I gave the husband worked away and was gone for 2 or 4 weeks at a time I can't remember and 'claimed' he was never told about his wives condition, although I find that hard to beleive. Also he was not mentally ill and the mother did not have a history of any mental illness including depression The neighbours also claimed that there was nothing unusual. My husband was married before me and had a child during that relationship, the mother suffered severe PND/PPD and he NEVER let her be alone, either his mother, MIL, or himself was always there. He did the right thing, but some people are a bit blind when it comes to their partners emotions. I do think that those close to and the people suffering from this tragic condition should have more resources and help and people (such as the doctors) should be more understanding and open. However muder is still murder and they should be treated just like anyone else who has chosen to take away anothers life.

Sharon - posted on 06/18/2010

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I'm mostly thinking of that woman in texas who killed all her kids and was living in a bus.

her husband AND her stupid fucking doctor ignored EVERY sign she gave - she flat out said she thought about harming the kids, said she heard voices and no one did jack shit. her husband, in a way, stopped her treatment. But she lied to her doctor the one or two times he called to check up on her.

Seeing as she was/is to helpless to help herself she should never have kids again. Seeing as her husband is an accessory to murder, if not the invisible hand behind them all, he should be sterilised and do jail time too. And the doctor needs to go back to medical school and take a class about how to feign compassion.

*Lisa* - posted on 06/18/2010

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Wasn't the husband also mentally ill? Should he be held responsible if he suffers just as much as her??

LaCi - posted on 06/18/2010

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With my PPD my negativity was directed inward, I hated myself, everything about me. I think had it been a tiny bit worse I would have been suicidal. I can completely see how it could cause a mother to kill all it would take is for the loathing to extend past one's self, and I do think it should be taken into consideration. I think they should receive help, and I think the help should be more extensive than 7 months because not only were they already seriously unstable, but now they've done something heinous and they're going to need extensive help to cope with it.

*Lisa* - posted on 06/18/2010

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I also agree with Carol. I think mental illness is a very tricky thing to understand. I do think murder is murder though and should receive at least some jail time, maybe even after they have gone to a mental institution, they could serve some time in jail. The lady in the post went to a mental institution for just 7 months and was let out into society again. I think a lot of people are using 'insanity' to get off lighter. I don't know too much about mental illness so I could be completely wrong on this one.

C. - posted on 06/18/2010

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Ooh.. I hadn't even read the previous posts.. I also agree with Carol. I hadn't even thought about Postnatal Psychosis.. That is very different from PND/PPD.

C. - posted on 06/17/2010

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No excuse at all.. If you notice you are going through PND or PPD, you should get some help. If you don't and you do something stupid (like murder your INNOCENT baby..) then you deserve the consequences.. Though I do think the consequences should be much higher than 7 months for murder, regardless of the person's mental state.

Amie - posted on 06/17/2010

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I agree with Carol. Depression and Psychosis are two very different things. The person with psychosis is not in their right mind and no matter what, she needs help. Once she is well, she will be living with the fact that she killed her baby the rest of her life.

Isobel - posted on 06/17/2010

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mental illness is an entirely different kettle of fish...I suppose I agree there's no excuse...but there certainly is sometimes a reason.

Joanna - posted on 06/17/2010

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I agree with Sharon, I was going to reply simply there is no excuse for murder, ever.

Sharon - posted on 06/17/2010

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PND, PPD are very serious. But it is no excuse for murder.

If you cannot control yourself and do not have access to help then you should be having children. Some people are very aware of their issues and go the extra steps to protect themselves and their kids.

Then there are those who don't think and endanger their newborns in a deadly game of russian roulette. will they succumb to their disease? won't they?

Simple PND or PPD is no excuse, slipping over to psychosis is a little different but still no excuse. If your depression is that bad, should you really be having kids? I would have myself sterilised if I ever went actually psychotic due to the birth of my kids. Ok not sterilised but definitely a more permanent form of BC than what we currently use. and I would be sure to stay hyper vigilant and under a specialists doctors care to be sure I stayed mentally healthy when/if I decided to have another child.

But that is just what a responsible person does. To many people aren't responsible.

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